Gov. Scott Walker's collective bargaining proposal could force the city of Madison to restructure Metro Transit or lose $7.1 million in federal transit aid, about a sixth of the utility's $42.4 million budget for 2011, officials said.

"I'm very concerned," Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said Thursday. "If you could imagine cutting one sixth of service, that would be a disaster."

It's still unclear when the city might lose the money if the proposal is enacted, Cieslewicz said.

The governor's legislation would effectively strip most collective bargaining rights from most public workers in Wisconsin, including those working for local governments.

But federal law requires continuation of collective bargaining rights on wages, pensions, working conditions and other conditions to get federal transit money, according to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo.

The Walker administration did not respond to a phone call and e-mail.

The state received $73.9 million in federal transit funding in 2010, including $22.5 million for the Milwaukee area and the $7.1 million for Madison, according to the memo.

About $27.3 million for the Milwaukee area likely would not be affected because Milwaukee County has a contract with a private corporation to run its transit services, the memo says.

But the remaining $46.6 million, including the funds for Madison, "could potentially be withheld" due to the governor's proposal, it says.

It's possible that Madison would have to adopt a system like Milwaukee's or lose the federal funds, Madison City Attorney Michael May said. 

If necessary, Cieslewicz said he'd explore a restructuring that would lead to a contract with a private operator, but he added, "that's not an ideal scenario."

Cieslewicz said the city has no taste for a fare increase, meaning any reduction in federal funding would be covered by service reductions, which would be unfortunate as Metro's approximate 14 million ridership nears record levels. 

The mayor said the governor and Legislature should slow down the budget repair bill process.

"Who knows what else is in the bill," he said.

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