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Kenosha News editorial, 16 Dec 2004

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©2004 Kenosha News editorial,
published December 16, 2004

Gasoline tax for rail line is worth discussing

Racine Mayor Gary Becker deserves credit for proposing a way for local communities to contribute to the cost of a rail line from Kenosha to Milwaukee.

This week he proposed a one-cent per gallon tax on gasoline in Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee counties. Such a tax could generate about $5 million a year, roughly $5 per car from all the cars in three counties.

The reaction so far hasn't been particularly warm, especially from other polticians. There is an understandable reluctance to add any taxes now. There is also a dark history behind increasing local taxes for special projects. In 1996, state Sen. George Petak of Racine was recalled after he cast the deciding vote to allow state help in the financing of a baseball stadium in Milwaukee. (Racine county is included in the special taxing district – which adds one-tenth of a percent to the sales tax – that helps finance Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers. The tax also applies in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Waukesha and Washington counties.)

While some may consider it politically dangerous to suggest this tax, there is also a great risk if the political leaders don't do enough to encourage this project. Train service to Milwaukee will be a great economic benefit to Kenosha and other communities on the route. Instead of Kenosha being on the northern end of a train line to Chicago, this city will be in the middle of a commuter line between two of this country's biggest cities.

For several years, transportation planners and political leaders at the local, state and federal levels prodded this project along. Just over a year ago, the mayors of Racine, Kenosha and Milwaukee and the county executives from the three counties agreed to contribute to a study of the project.

Most of the money for this project, which will cost more than $150 million to start, will come from the federal government, but the state and local governments are going to have to come up with something significant.

Mayor Becker has come up with a proposal for that local commitment. It can be attacked from various angles, but at least he's taken the risk of making the first move. Now there is a proposal on the table, one that's worth talking about.

The project is too important to let lapse because no one wouild take the risk of suggesting a way to generate the money. Mayor Becker's suggestion should make the next move easier.

© 2004 Kenosha News. Used with permission.

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Read Kenosha News editorial on local funding, 22 December 2006

Read June, 2005 Kenosha News Focus feature on K-R-M trains

Read previous Kenosha News editorial, of 12 April 2003, of 29 Sept 2003