This has the smell of State Legislator Robin Vos and Racine County Executive Bill McReynold all over it. Both have been against KRM, only when it comes to the entire county paying for it says Insider News Publisher Kenneth Lumpkin.
The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority called Monday Nov. 10 for the Legislature to turn the authority into a permanent agency that would oversee all public buses and commuter trains in a three-county region, funded by a sales tax of up to 0.5%.
The recommendation also calls for cutting western Racine County out of the new RTA, and for giving municipalities the power to levy a 0.15% sales taxes to fund public transit services.
The proposed transit sales tax should replace all property taxes now used for public transit in Milwaukee, Kenosha and eastern Racine counties, the RTA recommended. The sales tax also would raise additional revenue to expand the Milwaukee County, Racine and Kenosha transit systems and to build and operate a new commuter train line, the KRM Commuter Link, connecting Milwaukee and its southern suburbs to Racine and Kenosha. The board approved the sales tax recommendations 6-1.
Beverly Hicks, president of the local branch of the NAACP said the proposed tax reminds her of the dreadful regressive stadium tax that discriminated against the poor. “The burden of this tax should not be on one population or one segment of the County,” explained Hicks.
Al Gardner, a community activist for jobs, said that he supports commuter rail but is against McReynolds’ method of taxation which essentially divides Racine County into two tax districts. “He just wants to tax one side and that is the east and not the west. You can’t have a government doing that, it’s unfair.”
A sale tax would put the burden primarily on poor people who would get less usage out of KRM than other segments in the community, suggested Lumpkin, a former Racine County Board supervisor. He said he opposed the sales tax because it was regressive and hit the pockets of poor people the most. “Now government wants to place an even greater burden on the poor at a time when our economy is devastated.”
He added, “It seems that the western end of the county has their elected officials serving their best interest, while our officals are looking out for big companies and not the little people.”
Lumpkin says he will lobby Racine’s elected officials not to support any sale tax increase until a comprehensive plan is laid out showing how the minority community will benefit from KRM. He said that he also wants to know how inner-city residents will be assured job opportunities are available to them if the commuter rail project goes through.