The Milwaukee County Transit System is a powerful economic development force that provides a critical lifeline for tens of thousands of bus riders every day. Thanks to our drivers, operators, mechanics, dispatchers and other dedicated workers who go above and beyond the call of duty every day, Milwaukee County residents have the mobility and connectivity they need to live their lives. It is significant, yet not surprising that the extraordinary quality of service our MCTS employees provide our residents frequently catches the attention of the entire country.
From the day I took office as County Executive, I have fought hard to support our public transit system and our MCTS employees. Together, we reversed fare hikes, and added service in communities of need. We added new buses to our fleet. We celebrate exemplary service through MCTS Excellence. And we have built a modern transit system that we can all be proud of.
But the County has reached a financial crisis point. We rely heavily on state funding for our transit system; and that funding has not kept up with our needs, especially as the cost of service increases. State law caps our ability to collect funding from local taxes, so the County Board and I are limited in investing in the transit system at the level we deserve.
We are actively seeking a long-term funding solution from Madison so that we can preserve the high-quality transit services for our residents and do right by the drivers who go above and beyond to ensure Milwaukeeans get where they need to go.
Despite the countywide budgetary challenges, MCTS was able to offer a meaningful, fair and viable contract for employees. Throughout this process, MCTS heard loud and clear what is most important to employees and their families and crafted a proposal responsive to the concerns. I believe this contract represents a true compromise prioritizing both the needs of our employees and our community.
This contract provides a 2 percent raise upon contract signing, with another 1.1 percent raise on April 1, 2020. Employees will continue to receive cost-of-living wage adjustments, with a cap of 2.5 percent a year. The co-insurance provision was of great concern to employees, so it was removed. Every employee, even taking into account out of pocket maximums for health care, will see a net increase in pay.
MCTS took the most recent counter proposal from ATU under serious consideration. They found that there is no solution that does not directly result in an additional $5.5 million in route cuts, nearly double the cuts currently under consideration. Additionally, while the safety and security of our employees and riders is our top priority, the proposal to arm drivers is simply a nonstarter. For this reason, I called on MCTS to create a taskforce with management, drivers and riders to give us recommendations on how to best keep our buses safe.
While we can all agree that even one cut to bus routes is one cut too many, I am proud that MCTS is able to offer a contract that ensures all employees see a net gain in pay. Now is the time to work together. Let us implement this contract and get employees the raises they deserve, so that we can start working together to find a long-term funding solution from the state and pave a new road for our future.
Thank you, Chris