Friday, September 18, 2009

Are RTA's in Northeast Wisconsin's Future?

RTA's are Regional Transit Authorities. The Press Gazette reports that they came under consideration at Tuesday's city council meeting:
Proponents say a regional authority is needed if Green Bay Metro is to survive a likely cut in federal funding next year. Opponents say a regional authority would become another taxing body in a community that already pays too many taxes....

On Tuesday’s agenda was a recommendation by the city’s Advisory Committee to send a resolution to the state legislature supporting the enabling legislation....

The proposal survived several attempts to delay it. In the end, the council voted in favor of a plan that would ask the state to pass enabling legislation for an elected authority but that would require approval by the council and by voters in a referendum before such an authority could actually be formed.
The last state budget negotiation included consideration of an RTA for the Fox Valley, but that never came to pass.

At that time, the lack of an RTA raised some alarm bells here in De Pere. City Administrator Larry Delo sent an email to Representative Phil Montgomery urging him to support creation of the RTA due to its impact on a large De Pere employer, Humana. Delo's email included this ominous note(you can find the whole email at this link to WisPolitics):
Humana has indicated bus service is very, very important to them and will likely play a part in their decision for expansion on site or moving to a new location. We believe it is very unlikely that we will be able to keep Humana in Wisconsin if they move from this location due to the level of incentives other states are willing to offer that Wisconsin does not.We also believe Humana may consider moving their other locations out of State if they move their largest facility out of State since they are also considering additional consolidations of facilities. The total job loss to our region and the State could approach 3,500 positions. [Emphasis in original]
In a June 5th email to me, however, Mr. Delo indicated that the situation wasn't as dire as it had been. He wrote:
After further discussions with Humana representatives, they have indicated they do not have any intention of leaving the area.
While this is good news for De Pere, it is clear that this is not the end of the issue.

This episode demonstrates how consideration of an RTA can be a difficult decision, balancing the burden of taxation and the need for infrastructure to support local jobs. This is true for elected officials and for voters, who will ultimately have to decide how to proceed.

1 comment:

Dad29 said...

FAR more important than the decision to fund/not fund transportation is "whether the RTA shall consist of ELECTED individuals."

Here in SE Wisconsin, both MMSD and the MATC Board are not elected--and as you may guess, MATC tax increases are about double the amount of city, county, or even school-board tax increases.

MMSD is also a big-spender.

No accountability=sure trouble.