Wednesday, June 17, 2009

RTA: Rogue Taxing Authority

From Wisconsin Club for Growth:

Among the non fiscal policy items tucked into the state budget is the creation of five unelected regional transit authorities (RTA), each with the power to raise taxes, issue debt and seize private property. But not all RTAs are created equal. As anxious legislators negotiate the politics of raising local sales taxes and empowering unelected boards to spend taxpayer funds, one thing is perfectly clear: Each of the 5 RTAs has been carefully structured to provide political cover to individual Democratic Senators. So rather than providing uniform guidelines and empowering local communities, legislators are making short term political decisions with long range implications.

The proposed RTAs would be established in South Eastern Wisconsin, the Fox valley, Milwaukee County, Dane County and the Chippewa Valley, yet only Chippewa County residents would be given an up or down vote on joining the RTA.

A survey commissioned for the Wisconsin Club for Growth and the Independent Business Association of Wisconsin (IBAW) found that after voters in Southeastern Wisconsin were informed about details of the plan to build the Kenosha-Racine – Milwaukee (KRM) commuter rail system, they oppose the plan by a margin of 59% - 31%. More significantly, voters overwhelmingly oppose the creation of unelected boards with the power to raise taxes, issue debt and seize private property.

Officials in Dane County and the Chippewa Valley expressed concern that funds raised by the RTAs might not be used for their stated purpose.

"I would assume that starting a sales tax for transit would open up space in local budgets for other things," said Todd Berry of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. Berry also points out that increased sales taxes almost never result in lower property taxes, as transit proponents argue.

A last minute change to the Dane County RTA has county officials and transit advocates up in arms. According to the amended proposal, some of the Dane County funds could be used for highways. Clearly, some of the “coalition members” have figured out a way to stick their hands in the RTA cookie jar.

The last page of the survey asks this question: If your representatives in the Wisconsin state legislature voted in support of the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee Commuter Link railroad, would you be more likely or less likely to vote for them in the next election?

55% said they are less likely to vote for their representatives in the next election if they voted to support the RTA.

Not very good news for State Senators like Sen. Lehman of Racine.

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