Walker bill could put millions in transit aid at risk

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

From a blog post by Patrick Marley on JSonline.com:

Madison -- Wisconsin communities could lose $70 million or more in federal aid for transit systems under a bill quickly moving through the state Legislature, opponents of the bill are warning.

The measure by Gov. Scott Walker would strip most union rights away from most public employees. That could put in danger federal aid for buses because U.S. law requires that collective bargaining rights remain in place to get federal funds, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

"It’s a $70 million problem," said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha). "That’s not small change."

Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie denied the bill would affect federal transit funding.

"The budget repair bill meets all of the federal requirements to continue to receive federal transportation aid," Werwie said in a statement.

But according to the Department of Labor’s website, the Federal Transit Act "requires the continuation of any collective bargaining rights that were in place when the employer started receiving federal funds."

Werwie declined to say if an amendment was needed to the bill now pending in the Legislature. Andrew Welhouse, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said he did not know if lawmakers would amend the bill to address the federal transit funding.