Transit cuts will restrict workforce availibility

Walker’s budget repair bill and proposed state budget would result in a decrease in funding for local transit systems in the state, which will likely prompt service cuts and fare increases, said Kerry Thomas, executive director of Transit Now, an advocacy group for mass transit in southeastern Wisconsin.

Walker’s budget would remove mass transit system funding from the state’s transportation fund. Mass transit would instead get funding from the state’s general fund.

“Somehow (mass) transit is not a part of transportation,” Thomas said.

In addition, the budget calls for the reduction in funding for mass transit systems.

It will be more difficult for local communities to find alternative funding sources. One budget provision requires that a community pass a binding referendum for a tax or fee for transit.

Local transit funding also will face cuts because of plans to cut shared revenue to local governments, Thomas said.

“There is going to be significant reductions in transit services that are already less than what business leaders have said we need to be competitive,” she said.

In addition, Walker’s plans to reduce collective bargaining rights for government employees will result in a $46 million annual cut in federal funds for mass transit in Wisconsin, Thomas said, because of Federal Transit Administration requirements. However, that will not affect some communities, including Milwaukee County, which hire private operators to provide transit services.

Another proposed bill will eliminate regional transit authorities, which would stop the Kenosha-Racine Milwaukee (KRM) commuter rail project.

Half of all transit riders use mass transit to get to work, Thomas said. Cuts in services, fare increases and rising gas prices will make it more difficult for people to get to work, which will make it more difficult to attract businesses to the state, she said.

“How can we attract businesses if we don’t have the basic infrastructure to provide the services those businesses are looking for?” Thomas said.

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