APPLETON - People getting on the city bus all have a place to go, but some say they could have to find alternate transportation if Governor Scott Walker's budget bill passes.
"It's not just Valley Transit that has the implication of this," said Nikki Voelzke with Valley Transit. "It's Green Bay Metro, it's Oshkosh Transit, it's Madison, it's basically every transit system in Wisconsin except for the Milwaukee County Transit, Racine and Waukesha.
Under the current proposal, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau says Wisconsin could lose $46.6 million in federal transit funding.
"We can't absorb that loss," said Voelzke.
The potential loss in funds stems from the bill's issue of collective bargaining rights.
Under U.S. Department of Labor law, if the collective bargaining rights are changed for the transit employees who benefit from federal funding, then the existing federal transit aid will stop.
The Governor's office says the bill meets all of the federal requirements to continue receiving the aid.
But local officials remain concerned. Valley Transit says if the money is really pulled, it could be forced to close by early May. Federal funding accounts for $2.5 million of its budget which is just more than $7 million.
In 2010, federal funding helped pay for more than 32% of total expenses for Appleton, Fond du Lac, Green Bay and Oshkosh. In Manitowoc, federal funding made up almost half of its budget.
"More than 450,000 trips that were taken last year through all our services, so the connector, the para-transit, fixed route service were for employment, so that's about jobs and how do people get around then if they can't get to their jobs?" said Voelzke.
If the bill passes as is, the transit systems could look to privatize to keep the federal funding.
An amendment that would allow unionized transit systems to continue receiving federal funding was scheduled to be considered in the Assembly on Tuesday.
Some Democrats say they hope the possibility of lost funds is just an unintentional consequence of the legislation. No Republican would co-sponsor the amendment.
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