A group of Republican state legislators wants to dissolve the state's four regional transit authorities, including the one in Dane County that was poised to ask voters to approve a sales tax that would pay for improved mass transit.

The lawmakers oppose the sales tax, and are unhappy with the makeup and powers of the authority boards, said Mike Mikalson, a spokesman for a main co-author of the bill, Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater.

"It's better to repeal the law than to try to fix it," Mikalson said. "Then we can let the locals come back when they have a real plan that is supported by the public."

The state created the authorities in 2009. Dane County's board has worked for months on its plan and is scheduled to vote Thursday on placing a referendum on the April 5 ballot.

Authority board member Steve Hiniker said the bill resembles other Republican initiatives, such as Gov. Scott Walker's fast-tracked plan to weaken public employee unions and his rejection of federal money for high speed rail.

"You've got these legislative leaders who want to do this before we can have a vote," Hiniker said.

The current proposal in Dane County calls for a ¼ cent sales tax to extend bus lines to suburbs and improve service.

Hiniker said improvements are crucial for Wisconsin to compete for jobs with states that have already modernized transit. As an example of problems, he pointed to Epic Systems of Verona, a major employer that operates its own buses for employees because the public system is inadequate, he said.

"It frankly makes Wisconsin look pretty backwater," Hiniker said.

County Executive Kathleen Falk said she was deeply disappointed "to see Republicans take the extreme approach of eliminating the law entirely instead of working with citizens to make changes."

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