8.1.08

LIVING AT THE EXPENSE OF OTHERS. Don't tax you, don't tax me.

Plans for a Milwaukee-area commuter rail line have been put on hold, amid continuing disagreement over how to fund the trains and the region's public buses.

The deadlock has highlighted a split between the area's business leaders and their usual Republican allies. Major business groups have been pushing for public transit improvements to ensure workers can reach jobs, but GOP legislators and county executives have balked at adding or raising taxes.

Because federal matching funds presuppose funds to match, there will be no application going to Washington.
But reaching the 2010 target is unlikely now. With no deal in sight on how to pay for the trains, the [transit authority] voted last month to put its application for federal aid on hold.
One reason for no deal is no agreement on the designated source of taxes.

Nationwide, sales taxes are the most common way of paying for commuter rail and light rail lines. But when the [transit authority] ran into political opposition to a local sales tax for both trains and buses, it asked the Legislature to authorize a $13-a-car increase in the three-county rental car tax, from $2 to $15, for trains alone. Lawmakers refused.

The rental car tax drew opposition from Milwaukee aldermen and county supervisors, who wanted a revenue source that also could rescue the troubled Milwaukee County Transit System from a funding crisis that threatens to trigger a 35% service cut by 2010.

Business leaders support both the [commuter rail] and improved bus funding. The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce's board supports a transit sales tax that would be tied to a property tax cut.

Researchers who estimate the incidence of taxes, let alone their progressivity or regressivity, will never lack for work. By default, however, the State Line continues the cycle of traffic delayed by road construction that will simply attract more traffic to the widened roads.

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