As residents of Racine County rallied against commuter rail, saying it is a waste of money, a Racine union leader said he is relying on it to put his members to work.
The Racine Taxed Enough Already, or TEA, Party on Tuesday night met in Franksville to organize against the proposed $232.7 million Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail project. The project would rely primarily on federal money, but it would require up to $40 million through car rental fees and new local taxes, such as sales taxes, to pay for buses.
The new taxes would be approved through local transit authorities that would be authorized by a bill being considered by the state Legislature. State Rep. Robin Vos, R-Caledonia, urged members of the crowd to call their legislators to oppose the bill so it does not get approved before the Legislature goes on recess at the end of April.
The new taxes would pay big dividends for builders in the future, said Jeff Van Koningsveld, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 430, Racine. Van Koningsveld said the KRM project would generate new jobs building the train, and even more on the developments that he predicted would spring up around the stations.
“That puts construction people to work,” Van Koningsveld said. “and a lot of the projects that happen with rail, it’s prevailing wage work, and it’s prevailing wage work unions can compete for.”
Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a nonprofit research foundation based in Washington, D.C., predicted the development will not occur around the stations without more local investment through tax-incremental financing districts. The TIF districts let municipalities borrow money for projects and pay off the debt with the increased property taxes generated by the new development.
O’Toole warned that those districts would divert money from other government services, such as police and fire protection.