Who should vote on commuter rail sales tax?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

From an article by Matthew DeFour in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Some Dane County Board members are pushing to hold a countywide referendum this November asking voters to approve a half-cent sales tax to pay for commuter rail.

The proposal, which board Chairman Scott McDonell said will not be able to get enough support to move forward, comes after County Clerk Bob Ohlsen said his office won’t be ready to hold a Regional Transit Authority referendum this fall.

Madison and county officials have long promised to hold an advisory referendum before raising taxes in the Regional Transit Authority area to pay for local transit. But holding a referendum is not easy because any RTA referendum would only appear on ballots within the RTA area, which includes seven cities (except a small part of Fitchburg), five villages, four entire towns and parts of 11 other towns.

That means the state’s Government Accountability Board has to create a new voting district, and after that the county clerk’s office must compile the names of eligible voters and prepare additional ballots, while making regular election preparations.

“From what I’m hearing from the clerk’s office it would be very difficult if not impossible to have the voter file ready by the fall election,” RTA board Chairman Dick Wagner said.