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Legislative Focus in Wisconsin

Public Transportation Legislative Day was held in Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Urban & Rural Transit Association acknowledged 2014 Transit Week, announced the 2014-2015 legislative priorities and presented its 2014 Outstanding Service Awards.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation Assistant Deputy secretary Thomas Rhatican presented WURTA Chair Crystal Martin with Gov. Scott Walker’s proclamation of March 3 – 9 as Transit Week.

Rhatican said 54 percent of Wisconsin residents have access to public transportation and the secretary has a long-range goal of 75 percent. The priority is, “We have to have a transportation plan that is adequate, sustainable and equitable.”

Gary Goyke, WURTA legislative representative, and Greg Seubert, WURTA legislative chair, announced the federal and state legislative priorities. On the federal side, they are looking for longer-term, adequate, sustainable funding that reflects shifting demographics and the increased demand for public transportation. They’re also looking for increased capital funds and community development legislation that includes funding to enhance the availability of transit.

At the state level, the priorities are for transit funding to be restored to historic levels, approve regional transit authority enabling legislation, the creation of a state transit capital investment program to replace lost federal capital funds and for the state to reexamine its non-emergency medical transportation brokerage program.

The Outstanding Partnership Award was presented to Wisdom’s Kathy Zomm. There are 10 chapters in the state and Wisdom helped coordinate the vote to restore transit service in Weston, Wisc., which was greater than the governor recall election.  

The  Outstanding Writer Award went to Michael Horne. Horne said transit enables us to commute between areas but a lot more interconnections are yet to be made. With the generational shifts, there will be a lot of older people that may not be driving and there is an undeniable group of young people who look at the auto as something they only need once in a while.

Stevens Point Transit Director Susan Lemke received the Outstanding Public Service Award. Rep. Katrina Shankland presented the award mentioning that Lemke even suggested the idea for Shankland to hold city office hours on the bus, which allowed riders to raise their questions or concerns. Lemke said, “We need to be an advocate for those unable to speak for themselves.”

State Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-29) received the Outstanding Statesman Award for his professionalism and fairness in leading transportation policy within the legislature. When there was the debate over Act 10, the loss of collective bargaining rights for unions in Wisconsin, Petrowski reached out to a local transit director to ask how it would impact transit and federal funding and asked for documentation. Wausau Transit Director Greg Seubert said while legislators were sending mixed messages, Petrowski got the facts.

Petrowski said when young, he stayed with his grandmother, who took public transportation everywhere. On the night of the vote for Act 10, he said Gov. Walker called him and Petrowski said, “We have to fix this.” He added, “We need to find a way to work together so we can do great things.

“It shouldn't matter if you’re Republican, Democrat or an Independent.”