Voters say no in advisory referendum on commuter rail

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

From an article by Steven Verburg in the Wisconsin State Journal:

In almost all of the 45 suburban and rural Dane County communities that held advisory referendums on commuter rail Tuesday, voters said no to the idea of a half-cent sales tax.

One of the lead organizers of the referendum campaign, Mike Thomsen, said the vote shows county leaders are out of touch.

"They should start paying attention to the people out there," said Thomsen, a leader of No Tax for Tracks, which spent about $6,500 on radio advertising, signs and fliers urging a no vote.

"They should drop the entire idea of commuter rail," Thomsen said. "We need to have a transit plan, but it has to be something we can afford and something that serves the purpose."

Proponents of a commuter train system said they weren't surprised by the results because the ballot questions — put together by train opponents — don't reflect what eventually will be proposed: a system heavy on buses, with only a fraction of expenditures going to rail.

"To spend that much money on rail alone, you would have commuter rail running down about every street in the county," said Scott McDonell, Dane County Board chairman. "If I were in Sun Prairie, I would have voted no."

Forty-five municipalities had a version of a rail referendum on their ballots. Most asked if voters support a half-cent sales tax for commuter rail between Middleton and the town of Burke, just west of Sun Prairie.

The municipalities voting represent roughly 40 percent of the county's population and more than 75 percent of the population outside Madison. The city of Madison, along with Fitchburg and a dozen towns and villages, didn't hold referendums.