Commission recommends restoring state public transit funding - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Commission recommends restoring state public transit funding

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Recent state cuts to public transit have led to less service and an increase in fares for Wisconsin bus riders.

That's why a citizen commission is recommending that funding be restored in the Governor's 2013-2014 biennial budget.

The Wisconsin Transportation Finance and Policy Commission WTFPC made news yesterday when it recommended a five cent increase in the state gas tax.

While Republican leaders killed that idea, they have yet to say much about the commission's recommendation to boost funding for public transit.

Fed up with cuts to services and more out of pocket costs, a group of bus riders from around the state appeared at the State Capitol Wednesday to make a plea for more state funding.

"The ability to take your kids to the doctor when they are sick; the ability to get around when you're physically limited and cannot drive a car; these are not privileges, these are rights for members of our community," said Jennifer Epps-Addison of Citizens Action of Wisconsin, a non-profit social justice organization.

They are asking legislators to heed the recommendations of the WTFPC and restore $9.3 million to public transit that was cut out of the state's last two-year budget and add an additional $9.5 million on top of that.

"Our transit system is drastically under funded.  It is not meeting the needs of our community and we must increase the funding," said Epps-Addison.

"Something I would support and it ought to be realistic," said Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) in response to the recommendation.

Sen. Cullen sits on the State Transportation Projects Commission.

"DOT has its own mechanisms today to raise the revenue.  They have segregated money and the Legislature ought to face up to it and fund DOT adequately with the funding mechanisms they have available to them," said Sen. Cullen. 

The riders also support the creation of Regional Transportation Authorities, which could raise revenue for specific local transportation needs.

"A 21st century state requires a 21st century public transit system," said Epps-Addison.  "And we cannot do that without the revenue to build that system. "

That's something Sen. Cullen is less enthused about.

"I'm kind of skeptical of those, because they end up largely with unelected officials taxing people," said Sen. Cullen.

That is exactly what the WTFPC recommends: allowing RTA's to be created and have the authority to implement up to a half-cent local sales tax to raise revenue.

A spokesperson for Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) says he has yet to take any position on the WTFPC's recommendations.

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