Local government officials made a renewed push for a dedicated funding source for Metro this week, but aren’t speaking with one voice when it comes to details.
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments on Wednesday approved a resolution calling for an additional $500 million in funding above current levels, but did so without the support of members from the District of Columbia.
The resolution included an amendment calling for each of the three local jurisdictions to pay an equal share—a provision rejected by representatives from the District of Columbia, who disagreed on the funding mechanism.
Under the proposed funding plan, the federal government, Maryland, Virginia, and the District would each contributed $125 million annually above current levels, beginning in 2019. District officials have been on record as endorsing a regional tax instead.
D.C. Council members Phil Mendelson and Kenyan McDuffie, and a representative of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser voted against the amendment, arguing that the city should not have to pay one-fourth of the total when it has a smaller population than surrounding jurisdictions. Mendelson and other city leaders have instead called for a regional sales tax.
“This amendment is neither fair nor equitable to the District,” Mendelson said in a statement. “DC should not be required to subsidize the region in the name of regional unity. A regional system deserves a regional tax.”
Mendelson also noted that the provision calling for the federal government to pay a quarter share was “unreliable and unbondable.”
In November, the D.C. Council approved a measure calling for a 0.75 percent increase in the District’s sales tax, but that hike would only kick in if Virginia and Maryland voted to do the same.
New dedicated funding would allow Metro to close a $6.1 billion funding gap for capital improvements over the next ten years. Metro officials have pushed for a dedicated funding source as the agency continues its work to improve the safety and reliability of the rail system.
The resolution passed by MWCOG came out of an 11-person strategy group chaired by Fairfax County Chairman Sharon Bulova.
The MWCOG resolution is non-binding, and local lawmakers could endorse or reject the plan once legislative sessions begin again in January.
“We believe that our recommendations, in addition to the other Metro proposals that have been advanced this year, have helped forge consensus around Metro’s critical capital needs and ensured that long-term dedicated funding for Metro remains our top priority until a final agreement is reached, which we hope could happen as soon as the 2018 legislative sessions,” Bulova said.
In addition to disagreements over funding, Metro is facing uncertainty over how it will be governed in the future. A new bill from U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) calls for the formation of a Metro reform board to replace the current Metro board. In exchange, the bill would allow for more federal funding from Metro.
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