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Maintaining Public Transportation at Issue in Milwaukee County's Budget Proposal

Milwaukee County Transit System Diesel Bus

The finance committee of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing earlier this week on County Executive Chris Abele’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.

Most of the attention at the hearing was focused on a proposal to add a $60 vehicle registration fee for county residents.  It was also the primary story line of the Public Policy Forum’s analysis of the budget.

County Executive Chris Abele says the county has not been getting state funding increases over the past few years. This, combined with increased costs, has made a vehicle registration fee attractive.

"The [fee] is the only legal tool that municipalities have to generate revenue," says Abele. "If we don't have the [fee], and we want to keep some bus service running, we're talking about almost doubling fees, and cutting routes, and falling behind on replacing buses." 

The addition of the fee, says Abele, "means we can keep fares flat, we won't cut routes, we can continue on with the bus rapid transit plan."

"Just to remember, 151,000 rides every day, 40% of our rides on transit are people who need the bus to get to work. The last thing I want to do is make it more expensive for them to get to work," says Abele. "Because if they're at $10-11/hr, then the first hour of work is paying for the ride there and back, and that is regressive."

"We'd also, though, be able to catch up faster on paying down debt." he asserts. "As Public Policy Forum said in their report, 'this is the most significant answer, essentially, to the structural deficit that's been with the county for years, that we've ever had.'"

The full county board’s public hearing on the 2017 budget is scheduled for the evening of October 31, 2016.