June 29, 2009

Governor wants single regional transit plan;
budget vetoes send KRM scrambling

Updated at 3:30 p.m.:

Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed the entire Milwaukee Transit Authority, including its .65% sales tax for local buses and emergency services, when he signed the two-year, $62 billion state budget into law this morning. (A portion of the redacted budget is at left; highlighted portions are what Doyle took out.)

At the same time, he allowed the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority to move forward -- even though he's opposed to the $18 rental car fee created by the Legislature to fund KRM commuter rail, and bus service in Kenosha and Racine Counties. The rental fee should be a sufficiently sustainable funding source to satisfy the requirements of the Federal Transit Administration to go ahead with KRM's preliminary engineering work, but Doyle has rejected using a portion of it for local bus service.

The governor's at first confusing moves make it clear that he wants Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee Counties, along with the Legislature, to take another swing at this project, and create a single, truly regional, transit authority for buses and commuter rail, not two separate ones. Although he hasn't killed the KRM commuter rail effort, the parts he's left standing, and those he totally eliminated from the budget bill, will require a new effort, since the Feds demand both.

Listing the many sections of the measure that he vetoed (see page 46 of the .pdf), the governor said he is vetoing them
"because they do not provide a framework for regional cooperation on providing transit services. These provisions do not move in the direction of regional cooperation and leave serious concerns about the ability of the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail link to move to completion. By vetoing these provisions, I am allowing the creation of a transit authority that can move forward with the planning process on the rail link while eliminating provisions that hamper regional cooperation. I encourage the Legislature to bring forward a proposal with a stable revenue source dedicated solely to transit across the region in order to move regional transit forward."
Kerry Thomas, executive director of Transit NOW, was in the Capitol as Doyle made his remarks and signed the budget. Her first reaction was, "WHOA! Didn't expect that! A lot of people were looking around, scratching their heads, wondering where we go from here."

Upon reflection, she said, it's clear "the governor really has a strong vision of what will work long-term. Yes, it's hard work, but that's how governors think."

She said "there's an opportunity over the next two months for us and the Legislature to go back and work on this, bring back some regional solutions in the fall. We have to put the three buses (Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee) and regional commuter rail in one package. "

Doyle said he is opposed to the rental car fee, but
"I cannot veto it because the transit authority must have a local funding source to move forward with the federal application process. However, I strongly recommend to the board of the transit authority not to implement the entire amount of the fee until New Start plans are approved by the Federal Transit Administration."
Doyle had proposed a sales tax of up to .5% for Kenosha County, the east-of-the I portion of Racine County and Milwaukee County to be used as the local match for the $1 from the car rental fee (about $500,000 a year) dedicated to supporting local bus service. Legislators, still mindful of the popular uprising that removed State Sen. George Petak from office a decade ago when he provided the final vote for a .1% sales tax for Miller Stadium, are reluctant to trod that path

To provide the matching funds, some have suggested creating a "wheel tax" -- in part because it can be imposed by local government without need for the Legislature's approval. With approximately 50,000 vehicles registered in Racine, that would translate to a $10 increase in every car and truck and motorcycle's annual registration fee. Any other communities that wanted a station on the KRM line would also have to contribute funds to support local buses. Racine Mayor John Dickert came out strongly opposed to such a tax last week, because it would put a "disproportionate burden" on Racine's taxpayers.

Transit NOW director Thomas said today's action by the governor "is more than we expected. But it's early. I think we can still come up with something. The good news is that we have so many transit champions in the Legislature. The governor is just saying we can do this better."

The application for KRM is due in September, she said, "but there is some flexibility. We do have to act pretty quickly, strongly, to keep the FTA looking at the application. We need to sit down in the region -- local leaders, legislators -- and figure out how we're going to make a plan to get it through the Legislature in the fall. It's putting us under the gun, but it's a good vision."

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, said he remains optimistic. "This puts us in a position to apply for the preliminary engineering to get KRM moving." But he acknowledged that "all the communities have some work to do in terms of getting their buses in a place where they also have sustainable sources of funding."

Original post:

It's back to the drawing board for KRM ... or is it?

Gov. Doyle signed the state budget at 11 this morning, but his veto message indicates that he made substantive changes to the regional transit portion affecting commuter rail here.

What exactly those changes really mean is still unclear. But here's what we found near the top of the governor's veto messsage (before the huge .pdf download itself derailed).
I recognize that the Legislature's proposal for a Milwaukee Transit Authority and a Southeastern Regional Transit Authority is an attempt to move forward on this issue, and while I could have signed these provisions, I believe they would move us in the wrong direction. We must commit from the very beginning to a vision of real regional transit. New revenues must be focused on regional transit, not immediate local transit funding needs. Transit planning and operations must reach across county boundaries in southeastern Wisconsin.

My vetoes remove the Milwaukee Transit Authority but retain the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority and the $18 vehicle rental fee. This will at least allow important engineering studies for the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee rapid rail system to move to the next step in the federal New Starts process. However, I strongly urge the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority to avoid full implementation of the new vehicle rental fee. I also respectfully request the Legislature to build on the positive steps it took in this budget on regional transit. Further efforts and legislation are needed as soon as possible to continue to make progress toward a truly regional transit system in support of economic growth.
What the governor appears to be saying is that the two RTAs created by the Legislature's conference committee budget -- one to fund Milwaukee County's bus system with a .5% sales tax (and a .15% sales tax for police and emergency services) and the other to fund the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail proposal with an $18 car rental fee is not regional; Milwaukee was not in the SERTA and creating two RTAs does not make the solution regional. Or not. In killing the Milwaukee Transit Authority, Doyle also kills that .65% sales tax.

But at the same time, he appears to have left the key KRM provisions alone.

The governor earlier had favored a sales tax for KRM, rather than the rental car tax, which has bounced from $16 to $18; and while he appears to have left the rental fee in the budget -- Racine County legislators, unlike Milwaukee County's, being totally unwilling to commit George Petak hara-kiri by voting for a sales tax -- he is urging SERTA "to avoid full implementation" of the rental fee -- whatever that means. You either have a fee, or you don't -- right?

We're sure this is a developing story. More when we are able to sort it out further. The Journal Sentinel has its first story on the budget signing HERE. WisPolitics.com has its summary HERE.


  1. The mighty colt has the Governor shaking in fear!

  2. You are such a hater Colt! I'm a hater too - we both hate incompetent, arrogant people taking taxpayers' money and flushing it down the toilet.

    Or maybe you should say the Governor was PWNED, whatever the hell that means.

  3. Stimulas money is flowing now and the governor wants to divert the KRM groundswell into his high speed bullit train preference!

  4. Doyle gave the Feds an out to deny money for the project. KRM can still pass though.

  5. You have to have a bus system that can support the train service. Eliminating the Milwaukee RTA looks like it squashed the Milwaukee bus system. That would appear to put the federal application at risk.

    Strangely though, Racine and Kenosha get part of the rental car tax if they can match. That would help shore up their bus systems (provided they match).

    One thing for sure, this just got stranger. I can't believe this is seen as good news by KRM backers.

  6. Bottom line as I see it, this is the Guv's way of prepping the people for the sales tax option. With PLENTY of who's to blame to confuse all the voting public.

  7. To help with the matching funds, I'm thinking about having a bake sale over at the Transit Center. I make really good chocolate chip cookies. I'll make two dozen cookies; they'll be $5,000 each. Sales tax will be an extra $255.

  8. Here comes the first Dickert tax.

  9. HIGH SPEED BULLET TRAIN? Coffee just shot outta my nose. 1940's technology, and the best part is it takes 12 miles to whoa that hoss. ROTFLMAO. You dems never cease to amaze me.

  10. You mean Vos tax.

    Thanks bloggers!

  11. Milwaukee got PWNED

  12. Your Welcome!

    Colt does victory dance on the body of KRM Doyle killed!

  13. KRM isn't dead hoss

  14. Dead dead dead!!!!.

    Court cases coming. NAACP think is going to bitch about the lack of minority input.


    Walker is coming to end this whole project.

  15. No, It will be a DICKERT tax!


  16. Anon 5:11-

    When Lame-man and Mason sold racine out at the Joint Finance committee, they came to Dickert begging Racine to pass a wheel tax to fund RTA. He told them NO

  17. Downtown Denizen6/30/2009 7:39 AM

    I am amazed that Dickert rejected the wheel tax, but then he wants to get re-elected in 2 years. Hmmm... what will happen then. And if Anon 12:26 hates "incompetent, arrogant people taking taxpayers' money and flushing it down the toilet," then he should hate the people that are pushing this wasteful project that no one is going to use and everyone is going to pay for.

    I am also amazed that "do it to them again" Doyle didn't do it to us again! There's something stewing here, and Anon 2:33 my just have nailed it with preping us for the sales tax, because that is what the Fed REALLY wants to fund this stupid wasteful project.

    Anon 1:33 is having trouble believing that KRM backers are seeing this as good news. Put 2 and 2 together here Anon, Doyle is a leftist/liberal/socialist democrat and the idiot liberals that support KRM and Doyle are not about to say anything bad about their boy. But, had a Republican or conservative gov done this, why they'd be hanging him in effigy.

    I would also like to know why there is so much opposition to putting the KRM to a referendum and finding out what the people of Racine County REALLY feel about this. I think it would be shot down big-time and our politicians know it.

    Also, can someone please tell us what PWNED and ROTFLMAO mean? Enough with acronyms already, say what you mean.

  18. The reason that the KRM folks do not want a referendum is that it would lose. As well the big money city of Racine owners J-Wax has to spend lots of cash to back the upcoming referendum from RUSD and protect there guys from the property tax increases that the end of QEO will bring.
    I just can not see anyone in local office backing a sales or any other new tax with the hell that Jim Doyle and his lap dogs Mason and Lehman is giving us.
    In a way this is great for the area helps the GOP take back this State and when they get it back Colt will make damn sure there will be no KRM ever again.

  19. Hey Downtown Denizen - I don't hate the people pushing this except for the one's who know it is a scam and stand to make $$$. The folks who want this because they honestly think it will help, no, I don't hate them. And I asked before what the hell "PWNED" means but I suspect it is some sort of teenage text messaging crap.

  20. Had to ask my son about PWNED meant. Basically that someone is owned(controlled) by someone else.

    The other means rolling on the floor laughing my ass off

  21. KRM is a mess. We cannot afford it. We are not thinking future in terms of the technology of transportation. The Feds do have a better plan for transportation and linking all of the midwest with Chicago. We need to work together.

  22. KRM supporters and detractors can probably agree on one thing. This story is reaching Favre like proportions. KRM has been retired and unretired for a long time now.

    Will they? Won't they?

    Either do it or don't already so we can all move on.

  23. The longer KRM is in limbo the more the consultants make. Just ask Carl Mueller of Mueller Communications, a PR firm in Milwaukee. Mueller is quoted in today's JT as the "spokesman for the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority".

    Pete and Dustin - are you guys so enthralled with this KRM project that you won't investigate the illegal funneling of taxpayer money to Mueller to turn around and lobby the government and citizens? You went after Johnson and this is way dirtier.

  24. Carl Mueller of Mueller Communications, a PR firm in Milwaukee. Mueller is quoted in today's JT as the "spokesman for the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority".

    1) How much you think they make?
    2) Bid or no bid? If up to RCEDC it be no bid I think


  25. Settle down there colt. All of this die, die, die stuff is getting a little freaky.

  26. Sorry lets try

    Please KRM get you John and Cory off to never never land

  27. Well Colt, that's progress

  28. Looks like Colt the Vossbot's power is felt even in MIlwaukee County.
    Dead is what I would call KRM.
    My guess however is that Transit Now and Consultants will still find a way to get paid.

  29. Even despite the hissy fits in Milwaukee with Lee Holloway, et al, I'm not buying KRM is dead.

    But, to all you proponents - at some point don't you have to ask yourself, "if this is such a wonderful thing, why hasn't it happened yet?"

    It didn't take anywhere near this amount of time to get Miller Park done, to get Reefpoint done, to get the Marquette interchange done, to get the I-94 expansion going - why is KRM so difficult to accomplish?