ON-Lion Letter

In late August, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) issued its final decision in a case filed in 2011 by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty in Milwaukee.  On behalf of Brett Healy and more than 30 other individuals, WILL challenged the City of Milwaukee’s efforts to force Wisconsin utilities to pay the cost of relocating their facilities to accommodate the proposed Milwaukee Streetcar.  Those costs have been estimated to be at least $20 million and could be as much as $45 million or more.  The petitioners are utility ratepayers who objected to the fact the city intended to pass the costs along to the utilities and they could eventually be reflected in higher utility bills.

During the legal challenge, the Wisconsin Legislature passed Act 20, which provides that any municipal regulations that have the effect of passing construction costs for urban rail transit projects were unreasonable for purposes of PSC review.  Over the City’s objection, PSC has now ruled that Act 20 does apply to the Milwaukee Streetcar and the Milwaukee ordinance that authorized the city to go forward with the streetcar project is unreasonable, in violation of Act 20, and therefore void under Wisconsin law.

“We are gratified that the Public Service Commission has issued the final decision that we requested," WILL president and general counsel Rick Esenberg said.  "This decision should put to rest any idea that the City of Milwaukee can find some way to make Wisconsin utilities and their ratepayers absorb any of the costs of the Streetcar Project.  The City has admitted that there is no room in its federally-funded project budget to pay utility costs.  Perhaps it is time for the City to let Milwaukee taxpayers know that the money for this part of the project -- and it is a lot of money -- will come out of their pockets.”

Milwaukee's Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation substantially supports WILL.

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