Republicans Heap Hate On Streetcar
Three different legislative changes to oppose the project; all will have no impact.
Republicans in Wisconsin love to hate the Milwaukee Streetcar.
That isn’t exactly news, given that the project is made up of two things the state GOP routinely opposes — Milwaukee and anything involving mass transit. But despite the fact that rails are now literally in the ground, members of the Joint Committee on Finance couldn’t help but take another swing at the project this week when they finally passed a budget on a 12-4 party-line vote.
The 2017-2019 state budget is months behind schedule because of a stalemate between Republicans, including Governor Scott Walker, over how to fund transportation. A compromise proposal was finally passed on Tuesday that includes a $75 annual fee for hybrid vehicles and a $100 annual fee for electric vehicles, $2.5 million to study toll roads, $402 million in new borrowing and delays on a number of projects, including work on the Zoo Interchange and Interstate 94 between the Zoo Interchange and Downtown. It also includes a couple swipes at the Milwaukee Streetcar, which despite being included in the budget, will actually have no fiscal impact.
The section on the streetcar notes that “a City of Milwaukee TIF district may not incur direct or indirect expense related to the operation of a rail fixed guideway system.” Ominous sounding language, until you notice that its specifically about the operation of a system. The city has never approved using a tax-incremental financing district to fund the operation of the system. Instead the city has already approved using $59 million from three TIF districts to fund the capital costs related to constructing the $128 million system (federal grants will fund the rest).
How will the city fund the operation of the system? The plan approved by the Common Council in 2015 included the intent to fund the system through a combination of fare box revenue, advertising and the city’s parking fund. A federal grant has been secured to pay for the initial 18 months of operating costs, and the city hopes to secure one additional 18 month federal grant to support the operating costs of the system.
That plan apparently isn’t enough for the state. Republican legislators doubled down on a Milwaukee County ordinance restricting the county from paying for any costs related to the project by enshrining it into the budget. They also prevented the state from incurring any direct or indirect expenses related to the project, this includes “state urban mass transit operating assistance.” The operating assistance fund is heavily relied on by the Milwaukee County Transit System and other state bus systems to fund their operations, but the city has never publicly announced that they anticipated receiving funding from it.
So what does all this language accomplish? Nothing.
The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, who must fight over table scraps to fund MCTS annually, were never going to vote to give money to the city for the streetcar. Similarly, members of the state legislature weren’t going to vote to send money to operate the Milwaukee Streetcar. And multiple sources note that using TIF money for operations of anything is almost certainly already illegal under state law.
Republican legislators can head back to their districts to tell their constituents they put laws into place to stop Milwaukee from building that “boondoggle” for a “choo choo train.” But the reality is the new legislation has almost no impact and construction on the project continues. Operations are still slated to begin in late 2018.
The Assembly and Senate both most still approve the deal, and Gov. Walker maintains a “frankenstein veto” that would allow him to strike certain words from the legislation. Unlike the last state budget, don’t expect Walker to aid the streetcar in any way, shape or form.
Barrett Stays Quiet
Likely in a move designed to avoid poking the bear, the administration of Mayor Tom Barrett has been incredibly quiet on the matter. They issued a brief statement noting “Despite the fact that the State is not funding The Milwaukee Streetcar, there are members of the legislature who don’t like the project. We’ve asked the City Attorney to review the motion that the Joint Committee on Finance passed last night and once we have that information we will be in a better position to plan and move forward.”
Perhaps desiring to control the news cycle, the Barrett administration also announced yesterday that they have selected an operator for the system. One would ordinarily expect a privatized government service to be met with applause by conservatives, but apparently not in the state legislature.
Alderman Robert Bauman, an ardent streetcar supporter, summed up the whole issue succinctly when he told Mary Spicuzza “It appears they’re trying to stop us from doing what we weren’t going to do anyway.”
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More about the Milwaukee Streetcar
For more information on project details, how the operator will be selected, what the vehicles will be like, and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Republicans Heap Hate On Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 7th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Chooses Streetcar Operator - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 6th, 2017
- Milwaukee Streetcar Construction on Target to Meet Residential Preference Program, DBE Goals - City of Milwaukee Dept. of Public Works - Jul 21st, 2017
- Friday Photos: Streetcar Tracks Getting Road Tested - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 30th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: $30 Million Spent on Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - May 19th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Track Getting Installed - Jeramey Jannene - May 12th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: County Gets Waiver on Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 17th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Rails Being Welded - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 7th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Won’t Delay Streetcar for County - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 28th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: County Board Okays Bid for Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 23rd, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Track Steel Has Arrived - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 16th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Should County Operate Streetcar? - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 8th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Track Construction Starts in April - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 17th, 2017
- Streetsblog: 80 Transit Projects in 2017 - Angie Schmitt - Feb 6th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: The Milwaukee Streetcar is Hiring - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 20th, 2017
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Project Receives Federal Grant - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 12th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Cincinnati Streetcar Opens - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 19th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Okays Streetcar to Bucks Arena - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 6th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: $6.5 Million in Streetcar Savings - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 26th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Donovan Lies About Streetcar Suit - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 15th, 2016
- Eyes on Milwaukee: BID Sells Streetcar-Related Development - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 15th, 2016
- Murphy’s Law: Do Millennials Oppose the Streetcar? - Bruce Murphy - Dec 15th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Pennsylvania Company Wins Streetcar Contract - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 13th, 2015
- Plenty of Horne: City Accepts $14 Million Federal Streetcar Grant - Michael Horne - Oct 29th, 2015
- Back in the News: Anti-Streetcar Petition Dies - Bruce Murphy - Aug 28th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Scott Walker Aids Milwaukee Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 13th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Construction Starts in October - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 10th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: The Strange Politics of Anti-Streetcar-ites - Bruce Murphy - Jun 18th, 2015
- Plenty of Horne: Bucks Plan Envisions Arena Streetcar - Michael Horne - Apr 8th, 2015
- A Short History of Milwaukee’s Old Streetcar System - Ken Smith - Mar 31st, 2015
- Plenty of Horne: Davis Sets, Cancels Meeting on Streetcar - Michael Horne - Mar 17th, 2015
- Back in the News: Anti-Streetcar Petition Drive Fails - Bruce Murphy - Mar 5th, 2015
- Friday Photos: Streetcar Signing Is Quite a Celebration - Michael Horne - Feb 13th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Milwaukee Streetcar Approved - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 10th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Who is “Lobbying” For the Streetcar? - Bruce Murphy - Feb 5th, 2015
- Data Wonk: Will Streetcar Help The Inner City? - Bruce Thompson - Feb 4th, 2015
- Back in the News: City Attorney Says Streetcar Petitions Might be Moot - Bruce Murphy - Jan 30th, 2015
- Data Wonk: Millennials And The Streetcar - Bruce Thompson - Jan 27th, 2015
- Op-Ed: Why I Support the Streetcar - Russell Rossetto - Jan 26th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Responses Shows Wide Support - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 22nd, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Approved, but Held - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 21st, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Koch-Funded Group Backs Anti-Streetcar Drive - Bruce Murphy - Jan 20th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Streetcar Backers Say They Have the Votes - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 20th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Who Is Funding the Anti-Streetcar Effort? - Bruce Murphy - Jan 20th, 2015
- Op Ed: Why the Streetcar Won’t Work - Samuel Jensen - Jan 14th, 2015
- Murphy’s Law: Will Anti-Streetcar Referendum Succeed? - Bruce Murphy - Jan 9th, 2015
- The Story Behind the Streetcar Referendum - Michael Horne and Bruce Murphy - Jan 8th, 2015
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Delays Streetcar Until January - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 16th, 2014
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Committee Takes No Action on Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 10th, 2014
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Committee Approves Milwaukee Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 9th, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: RACM Approves Tax Funding for Streetcar - Michael Horne - Dec 2nd, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: How to Sell the Streetcar - Michael Horne - Nov 28th, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: Next Stops For The Streetcar - Michael Horne - Nov 24th, 2014
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Barrett Moving Forward With Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 18th, 2014
- Plenty of Horne: Who Will Be Streetcar Operator? - Michael Horne - May 8th, 2014
- Back in the News: A Streetcar Named Cooperation? - Dave Reid - Apr 27th, 2014
- Streetsblog: How a Streetcar Spurs Development - Angie Schmitt - Nov 3rd, 2013
- Plenty of Horne: Streetcar Social - Michael Horne - Sep 12th, 2013
- Republicans Move to Kill Milwaukee Streetcar - Jeramey Jannene - May 9th, 2013
- Plenty of Horne: Mayor Says Streetcar is “Trojan Horse” - Michael Horne - Apr 17th, 2013
- Streetcar Meeting on Tuesday - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 29th, 2012
- Donovan’s New Anti-Streetcar Allies - Jeramey Jannene - Aug 16th, 2012
- Battle of the Bobs: Donovan vs Bauman Streetcar Press Conference - Jeramey Jannene - May 18th, 2012
- Milwaukee Streetcar Hearing at Frontier Airlines Center - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 15th, 2011
- Important Hoan Bridge and Milwaukee Streetcar Meetings this Week - Dave Reid - Nov 14th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Passes Common Council, Proceeds to Final Engineering - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 26th, 2011
- Alderman Donovan Proposes Delaying the Streetcar Project - Dave Reid - Jul 19th, 2011
- Barrett says Streetcar is an investment in growing Milwaukee - Patti Wenzel - Jul 13th, 2011
- Keep the Milwaukee Streetcar Moving Forward - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 8th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar at Apex - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 16th, 2011
- Milwaukee Streetcar Takes Key Step Forward - Jeramey Jannene - May 6th, 2010
- Streetcars and Trams Around the World - Dave Reid - Feb 1st, 2010
- Milwaukee Streetcar Meeting This Thursday - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 5th, 2009
- Downtown Streetcar Open House - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 23rd, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Routes Unveiled by Mayor Barrett - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 21st, 2009
- Common Council Creates Streetcar Committee - Dave Reid - Jun 18th, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Round-Up - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 19th, 2009
- Vote For Your Favorite Milwaukee Streetcar Route - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 25th, 2009
- Design Your Own Streetcar Route - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 23rd, 2009
- Milwaukee Streetcar Map - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 21st, 2009
- Streetcars Coming to Milwaukee - Dave Reid - Mar 14th, 2009
- Palomar or Streetcar? - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 22nd, 2009