December 8, 2015
Transportation Committee Public Hearing
Assembly Bill 562
Good afternoon Mr. Chairman, committee members. AB562 is a
proactive bill that, if enacted, will prevent the new urban
mass transit project, Milwaukee's streetcar, from adding
undue stress on our already strained transportation budget.
My concern with this project originates, in part, from
dubious statements by project supporters and leaders in the
community, including Milwaukee Common Council President
Michael Murphy. In January, Mr. Murphy admitted that the
streetcar is a risk, adding that “there is a risk in
everything in life." While I was philosophically opposed to
the funding of a new Bucks arena earlier this year, I was at
least able to justify the financial benefits to my
constituents. I have grave concerns that the risks of the
Milwaukee Streetcar’s future operating costs far outweigh
any benefits. While the official Milwaukee streetcar website
does not state an expectation for state funding, we are all
aware that government programs, agencies and projects seldom
function as intended and are often fraught with cost
On October 26, Mayor Tom Barrett stated that the "…streetcar
will bring thousands of residents and visitors to major
attractions and new developments on Milwaukee's lakefront."
I certainly hope that this will be the case and wish the
city the best of luck on this endeavor. However, because I
do not expect the streetcar to be a self-sustaining
experiment funded only by fares, advertising, federal grants
and city parking revenues, I want to ensure that the rest of
the state is not on the hook if unexpected operational costs
It is important to note that this bill will not
prevent the City of Milwaukee from continuing this project.
This legislation, if passed, will be a well-deserved safety
net for our state taxpayers.
We should remind ourselves that state taxpayers have already
contributed generously to the streetcar project with
over $69 million in federal taxpayer
handouts to make this project a
reality. Wisconsin has a transportation funding problem that
must be addressed through efficiency measures, Department
cuts and real reforms, including swapping federal and state
funds on road projects. Wisconsin legislators must ensure
that we do not place any further strains on our state
transportation fund by adding one more mass transit entity
to the balance sheet. This will certainly be the case if
revenues do not meet expectations, rendering the Milwaukee
streetcar fiscally unsustainable.
In short, this bill will:
Expand section 85.066 (3) in statute. This statute was added
in the budget to ensure that Milwaukee County could not be
responsible for operating costs of the streetcar unless
reimbursed by the City. This bill takes this budget
provision one step further to ensure the entire state
is protected from bearing streetcar costs.
Ensure that money provided for urban, mass transit operating
assistance program aids ($106 million in 2014) may not be
used for the operation of a rail fixed guideway
transportation system in a first class city. It should be
noted that Milwaukee anticipates the system to cost $2.65
million per year to operate the 2.5 mile system.
The portion of statute (85.062) that provides state
expenditures for any project resulting from the Milwaukee
Downtown Transit Connector Study will be deleted. There
has never been funding available for any potential projects
resulting from this study.
Last Friday, Governor Walker lit the Capitol Christmas tree, officially
kicking off the Christmas season. Below are some photos of the tree and how
it comes to life in the rotunda. This year's theme is sports, as seen in the
photo of the ornament close-up below.