August 21, 2014

Coalition seeks greater budget priority for transit

Several groups are teaming up to urge state lawmakers to put a bigger priority on transit funding.

“It (transit) is the lifeline to those who rely on these service to conduct their daily lives,” says Greg Seubert, transit director for the City of Wausau and chairman of the Wisconsin Urban and Transit Association, who includes school, work, and the doctor’s office as places these riders need to get to.

“Creating jobs is one issue, getting people to those jobs is another,” says Al Simonis of Almagamated Transit Union. “You can create all the jobs you want but if people can’t get to them, how will this help our economy?

In the last state budget, transit received a 10 percent across the board cut. The groups are calling for transit to be restored to the pre-2011 funding levels.

The governor’s next two-year budget proposal in its first year would freeze dollars for transit. In its second year, transit would be taken out of the transportation fund and put into the general fund. Seubert says programs in the general fund tend to get cut in times of a deficit and he’s concerned transit could suffer the same fate.

The transportation fund isn’t immune to being cut either as it has been depleted for other purposes. Lawmakers have since passed a constitutional amendment to prevent raids to the fund, a measure that Wisconsin voters will need to approve in November.