Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Senate Democrats Push Commuter Rail Spending

Senate Democrats want an economic stimulus plan adds more to highway budgets - - and also commits money to financce the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail line.

The plan has an unclear future.

The Governor has his own business-stimulation plan, and there is strong opposition to the commuter line in the GOP-controlled state assembly.

My guess is that the legislature will adopt some measures before its short session expires in March, but nothing major.

Details from the Journal Sentinel's newswatch blog are below:

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 30, 2008, 11:56 a.m.By Steven Walters
Senate Dems offer economic plan

Madison - Wisconsin Senate Democrats formally broke with Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle and Assembly Republicans on economic development today, recommending an immediate $50-million boost in highway spending and development of the KRM commuter rail line between Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee.

The Senate Democrats' package means the Legislature is not likely to pass any major economic development incentives before the session ends in mid-March.

"This is something that Senate Democrats want to push," said Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Weston).

The Democrats' package would also spend $5 million more to train welders and health-care workers, give vocational colleges $1.3 million more in state aid, and spend $15.1 million more to subsidize child-care costs for middle-income parents.

Decker said the new package would immediately let "Wisconsin companies hire Wisconsin workers," giving them jobs that "can't go to China."

Boosting highway spending by $50 million alone would result in 2,5000 new well-paying jobs, he said.Decker said he hasn't seen details of the Democratic governor's $15-million package of tax credits, breaks and exemptions.

Doyle has said his proposals, embraced by Republicans who control the state Assembly, would help create the next generation of jobs in technology and start-up companies.

Democratic Sens. John Lehman of Racine and Bob Wirch of Kenosha both said the KRM commuter rail line would be paid for a $13 increase in car rental costs in southeast Wisconsin and is backed by leaders from both parties.

Decker and Sen. Pat Kreitlow (D-Chippewa Falls) estimated that their economic development package would cost about $180 million - $90 million in the year that ends June 30 and another $90 million the following year.

The money would be generated by ending a corporate tax loophole that allows businesses to create out-of-state companies that don't pay Wisconsin taxes.

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