May 11, 2011
In this chilly spring of million-dollar recounts and frivolous litigation, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has delivered something worth celebrating. On a straight party-line vote last week, the committee adopted a provision dissolving the Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) created two years ago to be the money machine for rail projects practically nobody wants.
There is every reason to believe the committee’s action will survive the budget debate and be signed into law by Governor Walker. Ninety days after that, the RTAs—unelected bodies with the power to levy taxes—are gone.
Wisconsin Club for Growth has been a leading voice against the RTA in Southeast Wisconsin and the $250 million KRM commuter rail project. Not to be overlooked is the contribution of the Tea Party, which channeled and drew strength from opposition to the Left’s attempt to railroad taxpayers. Conservative activists in Dane, Racine and Kenosha Counties stayed in the fight and won stunning victories in dozens of local referenda while talk radio educated the public and held elected officials accountable.
The Finance Committee’s party-line vote also identifies a pattern. Democrats uniformly supporting costly boondoggles that share two characteristics: They’re designed to expand government and they’re overwhelmingly rejected by the public. Another party-line vote the very same day torpedoed an energy efficiency boondoggle that would have added three quarters of a billion dollars to consumers’ electric bills over three years. A lame-duck Finance Committee authorized this ratepayer rip-off last December when Democrats were still in charge.
Diverse groups and individuals rallied around their opposition to commuter rail boondoggles, powering a new wave of active conservatism in Southern Wisconsin. Time to celebrate a good result from a bad idea.