April 21, 2010

Public transit bill dies in the state Senate; Window closes on law needed for commuter rail in Racine

Like the Tennessee Titans in the 2000 Super Bowl, supporters of a state proposal to create regional transit authorities around Wisconsin look like they'll come up just short Thursday. Supporters are making a last gasp to pass the legislation, but there's little hope it will happen. 

It's looking like efforts to pass a regional transit authority are playing out just as we reported they would a few weeks back. In summary, the RTA for southeastern Wisconsin is dead - and there won't even be a final vote to bury the proposal.

The Assembly is scheduled to take up the issue tomorrow, which happens to be the last day of the Legislative session. Even if the Assembly passes the bill, which is no guarantee, it still has to pass the Senate. Doing so with little to no time to debate the measure is highly, highly unlikely.

Further complicating the matter: the Senate isn't even scheduled to take up the measure Thursday. For RTA supporters, it's like that old gambling slogan ... you can't win if you don't play.

Transit Now, the lobbying group pushing for RTAs, attempted to rally supporters Wednesday with an optimistic rallying-cry email that suggested there's still hope. Maybe there is, but with RTAs not on the voting schedule, the issue probably won't even come up. With no RTA, there's no way commuter rail through Racine will happen - at least not in the near future. With Gov. Jim Doyle on his way out, and November elections swinging toward Republicans, it could be a long time before public transit supporters get another chance like this.

Here's the Transit Now letter that was sent to RTA supporters on Wednesday:
RTA Assembly Bill Advances: We are SO Close but WE ARE NOT DONE YET!
Please share this email with your members and networks and ask for their help in reaching this historic milestone.
We're Still Fighting. Thursday is our last chance to get the RTA DONE!
Your help is needed today and tomorrow!
Yesterday and early this morning, the landmark Regional Transit Authority legislation that we've all worked so hard to advance was heard by the state Assembly. 19 amendments on AB-282 were debated. A great deal of progress was made—and many attacks on transit were thwarted.
Our deep appreciation to our unflappable transit champions in the Assembly. They have been working 24-7 for weeks and pulled out all the stops yesterday. Thanks especially to Reps Peter Barca, Tamara Grigsby, Chris Sinicki, Cory Mason, and others.
The final vote on AB-282 has been rescheduled for Thursday, April 22 along with reconsideration of amendment 2 requiring a binding referendum in Milw Co. A senate vote for tomorrow must also scheduled by Senate Leader Russ Decker.
The amendment for reconsideration mandates a binding referendum in Milwaukee County to allow a sales tax for transit and removal of transit costs from the property tax levy. This amendment was passed even though a referendum in Nov. 2008 has already passed. Currently, the RTA bill’s language states that Milwaukee County’s advisory referendum that passed in November 2008 suffices.
This added referendum takes us backward to move forward and wastes valuable time and money. The people have spoken on this issue and Milwaukee's crisis is urgent. Let's move forward and solve the transit crisis now.
Your are Needed Today and Tomorrow: Thursday is IT!
Our last opportunity...We need to give it everything. This is our moment to shine!
Call your Representative and Senator TODAY, this is CRUCIAL especially if you live in these districts: 
Reps. Cullen, Staskunus, Krusick, Honadel, and Stone. Senators Sullivan and Darling—all of whom plan to vote NO or are undecided. Find your legislators: 1-800-362-9472, http://bit.ly/h6EY9
Join us at the Assembly and Senate Votes on RTA! Your presence makes a big difference.
10 AM, Thursday, April 22, Earth Day
State Capital, RM 412 E
If you can't come at 10:00 come later in the day and consider it an "after work party"
Attend a briefing at 10:00 and then drop into offices and let them know what your expectatations are and why passing the RTA and moving forword with the exisiting referendum is the solution that we urgently need.
Please let us now if you will traveling to Madison: kthomas@transitnow.org
This bill is about JOBS and economic development that we desperately need!
There are many trades people and entire neighborhoods that are at 50% unemployment! How can we not pass this jobs bill!
Milwaukee will lose 1/3 of it’s bus service beginning in January 2011. Racine and Kenosha are not far behind.
This is in addition to the 20% service cuts and 50% fare increases that have taken place over the past 7 years. 60,000 jbs will become inaccessible by transit.
Dollars will stay in communities that they are raised in and local elected official must vote to create IRTA's and designate funding sources and amounts. No community is forced to below to an RTA.
If legislators oppose the RTA, ask them what their Plan B is for their constituents when their buses are cut and they can’t get to work or to school or the doctor's office, and those whose jobs and economic development do not materialize.
We can’t afford the cost of inaction on the RTA bill AB-282. AB-282 is the best jobs and economic development opportunity that we will see. AB 282 gives SE WI and all communities in Wisconsin the ability to vote locally to create RTAs and save our steeply declining local transit systems, create jobs and economic growth, and give people in SE WI much needed property tax relief.
Click here to see more about the RTA bill, AB-282.
See news: Assembly Endangers Transit Bill
See Sunday's op ed by Chancellor Ford, President Albrecht, and Presisdent Cambpell
See and share widely this powerful new 5 minute transit video:
"What Wisconsin Leaders and Citizens are Saying about Transit"
Thanks--We are SO Close!

Update: And ... scene. RTA is dead after the Senate fails to vote. Transit supporters had two years of Democrats controlling the Senate, Assembly and governor's office and couldn't get the framework in place to extend commuter rail through Racine. Looks like it's time to support something legislators can get behind: building roads.


  1. Looks like KRM is dead,as the story said, Doyle is out Walker is in (Thank God)
    "the Senate isn't even scheduled to take up the measure Thursday." That would be right and if it not on the schedule I do not believe it can be debated never fear Transit Now will think of ways to spend public money. What you thought this was about Transit?

  2. "the Senate isn't even scheduled to take up the measure Thursday" - that statement alone speaks volumes about the character of those in our state senate - too afraid to even vote!

  3. Knowing that the RTA is doomed in the Fall why bother?
    Again this failure of RTA/KRM will not stop millions of public funds from being spend by Transit Now How can we find out how much that staff is paid?

  4. Racine Post reported a few weeks back that this whole sequence of events would happen....meaning this was a staged and planned event for weeks. We've all been scammed by Democrats in Madison.

  5. Tim the Shrubber4/22/2010 8:57 AM

    That tackle is one of the best plays in Super Bowl history.

  6. The Translator4/22/2010 8:59 AM

    This is great news. Congrats to everyone who spoke up against the spin, business arm twisting and weeping from the KRM pushers. This is not the time.

  7. That's some nice objectivity Dustin.

    Gee I wonder where the Racine Post stands on KRM?

  8. And our out of touch mayor supports KRM! What a joke! Thanks for killing this!

  9. Let it die, let it die, let it die!

  10. http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/91841584.html

    RTA-Voter Fraud-Green Job Killers are DEAD! and KRM is that much harder to get done! Than You GOD

  11. This is John Lehman's legacy.

  12. "With Gov. Jim Doyle on his way out, and November elections swinging toward Republicans, it could be a long time before public transit supporters get another chance like this."
    And this is a bad thing?

  13. Good analogy of the Rams being the taxpayers.