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Fox Valley RTA Bill Faces Rough Road Ahead

After passing through the State Senate 25-7, the bill might not make it as far as the House floor.
Assembly Bill 349 would allow voters in the Fox Valley to establish a Regional Transit Authority. As it stands now - local municipalities must pay individually for the service Valley Transit provides.

        "If there's a route that goes through three municipalities and the one in the middle can't afford it, you can't do the route," says Valley Transit General Manager Deborah Wetter. "So it would allow us to provide regionally."

The bill passed through the Senate on Tuesday 25 to 7, garnering bi-partisan support. The bill would allow voters to approve a 0.25 percent sales tax increase to fund local transit.

        "If they view the need to have a bus service, if they think its important, then they vote yes," says Sen. Mike Ellis. "If they don't think it's important, they vote no."

But before it can reach the voters, the bill faces an uphill climb. Fellow representatives say Speaker Robin Vos, who controls the floors schedule, informed them on Tuesday that the bill was dead upon arrival in the house. Today, Vos released the following statement to Local 5 saying:

        "There clearly is not enough support in the Assembly Republican caucus to move this bill forward."

Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna says that shouldn't be Vos' call to make.

        "He doesn't believe in additional independent taxing authorities," says Hanna. "It just begs the question: even ones that people approve by direct referendum? What could be more basically democratic than that?"

Rep. Penny Bernard-Schaber agrees.

        "He has told me repeatedly that the bill is not going to go anywhere and that's very unfortunate because I don't think that's the role of the state legislature to have one person stand in the way."

Supporters say the fair thing to do, would be to leave the decision up to those who actually use the service.

        "The last time I looked, we don't need speaker Vos making all the decisions for the people of Wisconsin," says Sen. Ellis. "The people of my district can make decisions on their own."

Ellis says he'll continue lobbying for the bill, even if it takes multiple legislative sessions to finally bring it to the floor.
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