So far, only one reasonable suggestion to raise new funds for troubled Metro is worthy of discussion.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan revealed Monday that the state is ready contribute an extra $500 million over four years toward funding the region’s transit system — if the District, Virginia and federal authorities hitch themselves to his wagon.
It’s a pledge the Republican governor made in a Sept. 11 letter addressed to his Virginia counterpart, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, and cc’d to Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld and all eight of Metro’s board directors.
Mr. Hogan articulated a cogent and commonsense four-year platform, pointing out, for example, that the lion’s share of Metro ridership is from D.C. at 55 percent, followed by Virginia at 23 percent and Maryland at 21 percent.
He buttressed those points by saying that 42 percent of all Metro riders are federal employees, making the federal government the biggest “customer” of the area’s troubled and underfunded subway system.
Mr. Hogan insists he is not going to raise taxes or create a new tax on Marylanders on Metro’s behalf. His position flies in the face of progressives and Democrats, including Mr. McAuliffe and Miss Bowser, who failed to reject out of hand the idea of a tax hike to stream money into Metro’s coffers. Metro boosters argue it’s the one major public transit system in the country that lacks a dependable, dedicated funding source, making planning, budgeting and maintenance a constant headache.
But Mr. Hogan knows that once, say, a regionwide tax comes into play, the tax-and-spend ideologists will never permit it disappear. (Sometimes, even poor folk don’t realize that sales taxes, the most regressive of taxes, are like hurricanes — the after-effect blows back harder on them than they do on the wealthy.)
The timing of Mr. Hogan’s letter is perfect. Congress is returning to Washington, the D.C. Council finally gets back to serious business next week and the smell of a new fiscal year is in the air. All that’s needed now is for the region’s congressional leadership to join forces to make it happen.
To be clear, for Democrats that means not merely preaching to their own choir but reaching out to Republicans, too — mindful, again, that more than 4 out of every 10 Metro riders are in the federal workforce.
Metro’s overseers are a mostly cumbersome and spendthrift bunch, which is why they should fully appreciate Mr. Hogan’s four-year initiative to continue moving the troubled system forward and take the bill-paying issue off the front burner for at least two years.
Besides, no other state or regional leader has proposed a more sensible fiscal proposal.
•Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]
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