Word is Gov. Jim Doyle is planning to meet with southeastern Wisconsin legislators next week to talk about regional transit.
No doubt the governor will have to explain vetoing Milwaukee County's sales tax increase to improve its bus system. The veto has Milwaukee County legislators aligned against KRM, which hurts Racine's chances of connecting to Milwaukee and Chicago by train. (Though the bigger benefit is attracting development around a train station in the State Street area, which needs some outside cash to turn things around.)
But it seems KRM may not be dead - just heading back to the beginning. Doyle initially proposed a true regional transit authority to cover Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties. Clever legislators - hastened by Sen. John Lehman's stance against a sales tax - decided to split Doyle's RTA into two pieces in hopes of being all things to all people.
Doyle thwarted their plan with his veto pen and now seems ready to take a run at a single regional transit authority. But Lehman stands in the way. Doyle's plan would require some sort of sales tax increase to pay for KRM and buses throughout southeastern Wisconsin. While this is an elegant solution to eroding public transit, it could come at a steep political cost.
Lehman is likely facing a tough challenge from Republican Rep. Robin Vos next year, and a vote in favor of a sales tax increase could hurt his re-electability quotient. But the reality is Lehman's going to have a tough time fighting off Vos even if he does stand up to the governor and torpedo KRM in the process.
This is the best chance Racine has to fix KRM and its bus system, align itself with Milwaukee and Chicago and bring lucrative development to the central city. It's up to Lehman to make this happen. (And here's a thought on how to deal with Vos' opposition: Take out the Caledonia KRM station and add one halfway between Kenosha and Racine, which would be a short bus ride to UW-Parkside. If you're not going to support investing hundreds of millions of dollars in your district, maybe that money has to go somewhere else.)