Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Thanks for nothing, Sonny

So MARTA met with Governor Perdue recently, and the word on the street is that Perdue is receptive to helping MARTA out with its finances.

Sometime next week, Perdue is expected to release the details of his first stab at a statewide plan to increase transportation funding. We’re told that the governor will recommend that MARTA be allowed to use a greater share of the Fulton-DeKalb sales tax to prop up its operations.
Perhaps as much as 60 percent, word around the Capitol says — with a sunset clause and other restrictions. 
Based on 2009 sales tax collections of $327 million, the new leeway would permit MARTA to shift an extra $33 million toward payroll and other expenses.
Not enough to close what the transit agency says is a $120 million gap this year. But it’s something.
Are you kidding me?!  Wow, how very generous!  Apparently MARTA is going to get held hostage in regional transportation funding talks, as well.  If Fulton and Dekalb legislators balk about adding an extra penny tax for regional transit funding, well, no help for MARTA. 

First, I think Fulton and Dekalb legislators would be stupid if they opposed the regional sales tax.  Yes, we already pay an extra penny that other counties don't because of MARTA - but sinking the regional transportation funding because of this would be cutting off our nose to spit our face.  

(In make-believe world, I'd love to see MARTA get wrapped into a regional transit system that gets funding from all the metro counties and/or the state.  I have no illusion that will happen, of course.)

So let me get this right..... the best we can get out of the state is letting MARTA use an extra 10% of the sales tax revenue, which will cover all of a 27.5% of the budget deficit.  We could cover the entire budget deficit if they let us use about 87% of the sales tax, instead of the current 50%.  Thats great.  So MARTA is still screwed.  I really don't see how this helps, and its fairly insulting to think that this is what it means when the Governor and the Legislature decide to "make nice" with MARTA.  

With friends like these, right?

UPDATE: Political Insider's latest suggests that Perdue's MARTA plan may be to simply lift the 50/50 capex limit.  It is a bit unclear, but they've posted a document outlining Perdue's "Transportation Resource Legislation" that simply calls for lifting the cap for three years.  I'd still rather not see MARTA funding get tied up with something as messy as the regional transportation sales tax, but it is better than nothing.  Hopefully state legislators (ahem, Jill Chambers) aren't feeling vindictive or petty, and the 50/50 cap is simply suspended instead of adjusted as first reported.  So credit is due to Sonny Perdue if I'm reading the document correctly.  

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