Yet another example of the perverse mentality that goes through today's WisGOP is illustrated in the Journal-Sentinel's rundown of the budget cuts that the Milwaukee County Transit System is facing. The spin the J-S puts on it is disgusting enough ("well, it could have been worse."), but then when you analyze the systematic destruction of this previously high-performing transit system, it's all the more sickening.
First of all, that $6.8 million budget cut should be put into context. It's not like the MCTS had been fully funded for the last 10 years and it's a temporary cutback. Scott Walker consistently cut routes and raised fares since taking over in Milwaukee in 2002. These drops in service and higher prices have predictably led to reduced ridership, due to the lack of reliability and affordability, to the point that recent fare increases over the last 3 years have not increased passenger revenues for the system.
Walker and co. continued with these failing ideas for 8 years instead of trying to invest and improve service performance and reliability. Why? To create a self-fulfilling prophecy he culd blurt out on his talk radio propaganda network, of course. "See, not enough people are taking the bus, so what's the point of spending money to improve the service? Let's do another pointless pose on property taxes and use it as a reason give away another break to my contributors." (oh wait, that second sentence is only what they say in private.)
So when Walker asked to cut 10% of MCTS funding along with the funding of every other transit tier, it was done with the knowledge that MCTS already had suffered major damage (By the way, there are 4 tiers that get state aid, Milwaukee, Madison, cities in Urbanized Areas of 50,000 or more, and Non-Urbanized areas). Then these cuts in direct aid were coupled with the knowledge that the federal government was also looking at cutting back on transit aid by 20%. So there goes that bullet for MCTS. And we've already mentioned that increasing fares really doesn't work in getting revenues, so what's MCTS to do if it wants to maintain anything resembling a normal transit system?
Ah, they could raise the money themselves. And they could do it by having all the FIBs who invade Summerfest and out-of-towners that hit Miller Park pay an extra 0.5% on everything they buy. The current 0.5% sales tax is slated to raise $64 million for the County this year, so figure the same for another 0.5% sales tax (I'm told by the LFB's lead sales tax analyst that there is no elasticity for sales tax vs. purchases, so I'll go with it), and you'd be able to cover the entire farebox and property tax part of the transit system (Page 19). Or you could cut the state taxpayer support of the system by $50 million and still take it almost entirely off of the property tax rolls. Win-win, right!
"Oh, but the voters would never go for an extra sales tax for transit." Except they already did, in the November 2008 general election with huge turnout. So why don't we have it? Because Walker still argued against it (I guess 52% of the voters wasn't enough of a mandate, unlike his 2010 52% "mandate" of a much smaller voter turnout), and Jim Doyle stupidly vetoed a budget item allowing it, making a silly argument in favor of regional transit instead of separating the MCTS issues from the KRM ones.
And the transit-hating suburbans who dominate WisGOP and as a result the Joint Finance Committee took this anti-tax thing one step further, led by Robin Vosser the Tosser, who whined about the horrible idea of having consumption taxes go toward helping people travel to work and leisure destinations. Walker allowed for RTAs to continue in his original budget, but you'll notice he didn't veto this abolition of RTAs, now did he? (Sometimes the actions you don't do speaks just as loudly, now don't it?) And he also didn't say "boo" about Vos and co's move to shift $160 million of general fund dollars into the Transportation Fund over the next 2 years, and only giving $5 million more to transit in the process (and only in the form of paratransit for city bus systems throughout the state, which is all of about 5% of those systems' paratransit costs- WOO-HOO!!!).
So now where does that leave the MCTS? Good luck raising property taxes when you have a $51 million budget deficit and an $8.3 million cut from the state in shared revenue (Page 49) ON TOP OF the $6.7 being cut to MCTS. It's almost like Walker and the WisGOPs set it up so that there is no other choice other than to drastically discontinue service and make it impossible for the County to provide a quality transit service.
Oh wait, that's EXACTLY the goal. You see, failed and ineffective public services prove "the government can't do anything right", and opens up the field for services to be sold off to private providers like Atlanta's Logisticare, who's getting $20 million a year for the next 3 years from the state to work with 3rd parties to get dialysis patients and other Medicaid recipients to their appointments. Nice gig if you can get it, and even better when it comes with less taxpayer accountability than a public transit system. And a great way to exploit the needy and make them ever more reliable on the corporate overlords, since they lose the choices in transportation and mobility that transit can offer them.
It's far from the only example of this administration stepping on the average person in order to funnel money to their contributors and friends, but it's one of the worst, as a second-class Milwaukee will go a long way toward having a second-class state. Then again, a declining Milwaukee seems to be what the 262 types prefer, since their goal in life appears to be winning a whole lot of "tallest midget" contests. Pathetic.