Monday, March 16, 2009

A Little More Transit Funding History To Calm Scott Walker's Histrionics

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has complained that the Congress, with input from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, divided $91.5 million in earmarked transit funds 60% to the city, 40% to the county.

Here are a few fun facts to remember about the transit funding:

* The money was always the federal government's to hand out. Originally, the earmark was $289 million, cut to $241 million because of the inability of local and state officials to decide where and when and how to spend it. Congress could have cut it to $0 if it so chose.

* In 1998, then Gov. Tommy Thompson prevailed on Rep. Tom Petri (R) to allow Thompson to direct the transit funds to other transportation projects, including freeways, because Thompson wanted the money for the Marquette Interchange reconstruction. Intervention by then-Rep. Tom Barrett (D), and Sen. Herb Kohl, (D), prevented that outcome - - and I don't recall then State Rep. Scott Walker, (R), piping up and complaining that would mean less money for Milwaukee County buses someday.

* Walker has said the Congressional decision violated an agreement signed by then-County Executive Scott Walker, Thompson and then-Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist to divide the remaining $241 million - - 50% to the state, and 50% to the city and county together.

The Congressional split honors that agreement, as the remaining local piece - - $91.5 million - - is being shared by Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee and will be spent on transit projects in those jurisdictions.

Besides - - Ament is no longer County Executive, Norquist is no longer Mayor, Thompson is no longer governor, and Grenadier's - - the restaurant where the local/state split was agreed to - - has closed.

What peeves Walker is that Barrett and the Democratic Congress worked together to get the $91.5 million moved from an earmark to an appropriation.

Thompson's earlier effort to grab all the money was not successful; this time, the Democrats were better organized than were the Republicans a decade ago.

So it goes.

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