Bill would eliminate state funding for streetcar: Mayor says "we're not using any state funds"

MILWAUKEE -- A Republican-backed bill would eliminate the possibility for state funding to be used for Milwaukee's streetcar project.

The bill is being circulated by representatives Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum),Romaine Quinn (R-Rice Lake) and Cody Horlacher (R-Mukwonago).

City officials estimate it will cost a little more than $2.5 million to operate the initial streetcar line.

The city's plan calls for ticket revenue from passengers, money from the parking fund, and advertisements on the streetcars would create funding to operate the line. That line, which will begin construction next year, would run in a loop through downtown and into the city’s lower east side.

Because of that, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says the bill isn't necessary.

"I think it's political posturing, because we're not using any state funds -- but I understand politicians want to make political points," Mayor Barrett said.

The city's plan indicates additional money could come from the federal government.

According to the Milwaukee Business Journal, the city of Milwaukee already secured one such grant for operations. The $3.18 million awarded in April 2014 is federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement, or CMAQ, money. The money originated in the federal government and was passed to the state. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation oversees the awards of the CMAQ money.

Rep. Kremer said in introducing the bill that that kind of funding would not be affected by the proposed bill. It instead would prevent state transportation aid from going to the streetcar. Kremer said he does not believe Milwaukee officials planned to pursue those funds for the streetcar system.

"We just want to ensure that wouldn't happen in the future," he said. "Milwaukee is not planning on it, so I am being proactive."