Who needs public transit?

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Milwaukee does, according to top business leaders in the area. As many of you know, the last budget included a provision which allowed the creation of regional transit authorities, most notably in Southeastern Wisconsin. Generally speaking, Democrats support them, Republicans oppose them. The transit authorities will be governed by an independent board, which will have the power to levy a 1/2 percent sales tax to fund public transit.

According to the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin, a group in favor of expansion of public transportation, five CEOs of some of the biggest companies in Wisconsin are urging lawmakers to take advantage of the regional transit authorities and take public transportation seriously.

Tim Sullivan, Bucyrus president and CEO, spoke first and

noted that the area’s current transit options are too meager to serve the 500 new employees his

company wants to add. Sullivan was joined at the news conference by the CEOs of SC Johnson,

AT&T Wisconsin, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance and Roundy’s Supermarkets, along with

Governor Jim Doyle, Racine Mayor John Dickert, and the president of Local 4International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Sen. Mary Lazich (R- New Berlin) shot back, saying that the authorities create burdensome taxes ($172 per household), are undemocratic and that the proposed transportation systems will “fail to entice enough users to pay for the cost.”

Notice the last assertion. Politicians regularly insist they can read the future, but this is a particularly poignant example. Is it really so hard to believe that a comprehensive transportation service in a big urban area would not be able to make up $172 in taxes per year? No evidence is provided, so we just have to assume she knows what she’s talking about.

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