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Campaign Begins to Provide Metro 'Dedicated Funding Source'

Yesterday, we growled about the growing burden of Metro subsidies provided by Arlington County taxpayers -- that after a Washington Times story that Metro announced an $18 billion budget shortfall.

Now we learn, "A pair of regional organizations are jointly crafting a proposal for dedicated Metro funding to augment what the transit system receives from fares and cash-strapped area governments," according to Michael Neibauer in today's Washington Business Journal.

Here are some of the details:

"The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, representing 22 area jurisdictions, and the Greater Washington Board of Trade expect to have a proposal ready by September, said Roger Berliner, chairman of the MWCOG board and a Montgomery County councilman.

"The complexities of a regional funding mechanism are enormous, but officials hope Metro's safety crisis will create a sense of urgency and prompt elected officials in D.C., Maryland and Virginia to approve a funding source that has evaded the region for years.

"The big three jurisdictions, along with the localities served by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, would be asked to share the burden, likely in some equitable way.

"The proposal's rollout would be followed by an intense campaign to earn support, not just from D.C. area residents, but, more importantly, from Virginia and Maryland state-level elected officials.

“I don’t think the region’s the issue,” Berliner said. “Richmond’s the issue. Annapolis is the issue. I am convinced that our region’s political leadership will strongly back a dedicated funding source. Our dilemma is that in two of the three jurisdictions there are larger dynamics at play here.”

"What might a regional funding package consist of? It’s too early to say, Berliner said, but the sales tax is “always at the top list of candidates,” because everybody pays it, including visitors to the region. A 2005 analysis of Metro funding options — sponsored by MWCOG, the Federal City Council and the Board of Trade — suggested a sales tax is the most viable source, but it wasn't the only option. The report considered property and payroll, gas and motor vehicle taxes, too."

Neibauer's reporting includes one more important especially information point:

"In Northern Virginia, the state hiked the sales only three years ago to 6 cents — same as Maryland, a quarter cent more than D.C. — to fund transportation and transit projects. Asked whether he could support additional tax dollars for Metrorail, Virginia Del. David Albo, R-Fairfax, responded in an email: “No way, no way, no way.” (emphasis added)

Yesterday, we growled that before Metro further picks  taxpayers' pockets, Metro needs to provide detailed information of how effectively Metro's management used past funding increases. As we growled yesterday:

" . . . From fiscal year 2001 to fiscal year 2015, which ended June 30, 2015, total expenditures increased by 5.1%. but the subsidies paid to WMATA (technically, "regional contributions transit") increased at an annual rate of 8.3%. During this same period, the annual rate of inflation was about 2.8%. Numbers based upon Table D-1, Statistical Section, of the county's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)."

Growls readers are urged to write to members of the Arlington County Board to voice concerns about the planned campaign by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) and the Greater Washington Board of Trade to "augment" current Metro revenues. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

UPDATE (5/17/16): Washington Business Journal is conducting a poll, which asks,"What type of tax or fee would you prefer be used to repair and maintain the beleaguered Metro system?" Click here to take the poll. As of 11:45 PM, 18% favored a sales tax; 5% favored a property tax; 2% favored a payroll tax; 18% favored a developer impact fee; 17% favored a new car or gas tax; and 8% favored an other tax or fee. 32% opposed new taxes.

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