Greater Greater Washington

Virginia holding up transit funds over Metro board seat

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is withholding $20 million in funds promised to Northern Virginia transit agencies until the governor's chosen representative is appointed to the Metro board.


Photo by poe9418 on Flickr.

Since the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) officially appoints Metro board members from Virginia, obtaining their agreement is necessary for governor Bob McDonnell to appoint his choice, attorney James Dyke Jr., to the board.

Withholding the funds does not only affect Metro. Since NVTC also funds local bus agencies and VRE, those public transit providers are also faced with the prospect of state assistance being withheld. The other agencies are working on plans to deal with a funding shortfall until the impasse is resolved. VRE has enough funds in reserves to last until the end of October.

According to the Examiner, a state proposal would require local transportation boards to allow Virginia to appoint one member if the board receives state money. Many local boards have agreed to the proposal, though Alexandria, Fairfax, Arlington and the NVTC have so far refused. It isn't clear whether Virginia has actually exercised the appointing privilege for other boards.

It's also unclear exactly where the money at stake is coming from. It could be from the special Northern Virginia gas tax, or it could be from Virginia's annual match to the federal government's $150 million contribution to WMATA, or it could be from another source.

In any case, this is more evidence of the strained relationship between the Commonwealth government and the local governments that provide the majority of Metro's funding and riders.

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Michael Perkins blogs about Metro operations and fares, performance parking, and any other government and economics information he finds on the Web. He lives with his wife and two children in Arlington, Virginia. 

Comments

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Well done Virginia. In stead of putting a good member on the board, you are now fighting over the meta-discussion of who gets to decide who is good for the board. I am so happy that I bear no responsibility for the government in this country.

by Jasper on Sep 29, 2011 10:35 am • linkreport

Yes, the NVTC is certainly holding up the transfer of these funds by not complying with the new legislation from Richmond. Excellent point.

by Lou on Sep 29, 2011 10:47 am • linkreport

Bottom line: "Virginia" is a sovereign entity, "Northern Virginia" is not. The duly-elected legislature has spoken, NVTC needs to get with the program.

by Paul on Sep 29, 2011 11:08 am • linkreport

Why do I think this is all about Jeff McKay losing his seat?

by charlie on Sep 29, 2011 11:22 am • linkreport

Maybe Northern Virginia could secede, ya know, to keep more of our tax dollars up here with the producers as opposed to going to the looters and moochers downstate in Richmond and the boondocks?

by Hal on Sep 29, 2011 11:31 am • linkreport

This decision to force localities to put a governor-appointed member on their board was not made by the legislators. It is a heavy handed decision by the governor's administration.

Local governments know local transporation issues best so should control how they spend the money allocated to them. We don't need more big government intrusion on local issues unless there are unique circumstances requiring additional oversight (perhaps that could be argued for Metro but even then, the oversight from the state should be temporary, only until the problems are addressed).

For those people who say that NVTC needs to get with the program, how would you like it if the federal government demanded to have seats on the Virginia Transportation Board in exchange for federal highway dollars?

by Falls Church on Sep 29, 2011 11:47 am • linkreport

@Paul

Would you be a small government advocate by any chance?

by Vik on Sep 29, 2011 12:21 pm • linkreport

The feds do worse things -- such as demanding that 10% of federal road money goign to states be spent on TE. Stuff like that gets Republcians all in a hissy.

I'm sure NVTC can turn down the money if they don't want to give up their board set on WMATA. Problem solved.

by charlie on Sep 29, 2011 12:34 pm • linkreport

Filed under "Why DC Needs An Independent Light Rail System".

Eventually the Teabaggers who run VA are going to burn Metro to the ground. Frankly, I'm not sure DC wants to hitch its wagon to that horse.

by oboe on Sep 29, 2011 12:40 pm • linkreport

What hypocrisy!!! Maryland has a seat on WMATA, and no one complains about it. But Virginia is not supposed to have a board seat. This is all about Jeff McKay losing his seat.

by tmtfairfax on Sep 29, 2011 1:10 pm • linkreport

I'm sure NVTC can turn down the money if they don't want to give up their board set on WMATA. Problem solved

Problem is not solved unless NVTC gets the money its owed. They shouldn't be extorted to give up a board seat to get it.

What hypocrisy!!! Maryland has a seat on WMATA, and no one complains about it.

Virginians don't complain about it because MD is free to do whatever it wants with its stuff. Marylanders don't complain about it because they are generally more pro-big government than VA. That said, if there's any place where there's a valid argument for more oversight from the state (at least temporarily), it's WMATA. But, they've already got that seat. This is about a power grab by the state to get more seats on additional boards.

The feds do worse things -- such as demanding that 10% of federal road money goign to states be spent on TE.

And you don't think that the governor's appointee is going to demand things that the local jurisdictions don't like?

by Falls Church on Sep 29, 2011 1:19 pm • linkreport

What hypocrisy!!! Maryland has a seat on WMATA, and no one complains about it. But Virginia is not supposed to have a board seat. This is all about Jeff McKay losing his seat.

I agree. If we were talking about Governor Kane or Warner, perhaps the reaction would be different from us Democrats in the Peanut Gallery. But props for picking James Dyke, I think he was an excellent choice.

Now withholding the money from WMATA over an intra-VA debate is kind of a shit move on the part of the esteemed Governor. Why should WMATA suffer? They didn't cause this at all!

If you're upset over this, Blame Dick Saslaw. It was his job to kill the budget rider in the first place.

by WRD on Sep 29, 2011 1:59 pm • linkreport

Maybe Northern Virginia could secede, ya know, to keep more of our tax dollars up here with the producers as opposed to going to the looters and moochers downstate in Richmond and the boondocks?

Time for NoVa to "go Galt".

by oboe on Sep 29, 2011 2:56 pm • linkreport

Any coincidence between the timing of this blog article and the fact that NVTC is in a closed executive meeting RIGHT NOW to discuss "Legal and Personnel Matters"?

by Steve25 on Sep 29, 2011 3:16 pm • linkreport

The director of communications provided the following comment:

1) The state proposal is to provide a primary appointee AND an ALTERNATE. This is problematic when you view it through the lens of the WMATA seat issue at hand. Because it would technically give the Commonwealth an EXTRA seat beyond what the Governor received permission for from the General Assembly in the budget amendment. That’s the primary concern.

2) There are some serious legal questions as to whether the Governors budget amendment may violate the WMATA Compact and even the rules of NVTC as outlined by the General Assembly and mirrored in the Compact.

3) The NVTC and its localities haven’t said they won’t sign the agreement. They simply want to make sure they aren’t signing something that may put NVTC, their jurisdictions or Metro in legal jeopardy down the road. Until we figure these issues out NVTC has simply asked that DRPT keep funding us according to the existing, long-standing agreements.

4) The money in question is programmed by the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) in the FY 2012 six year improvement plan (SYIP). Essentially this money is promised to the region, the region programs their budgets accordingly and DRPT disburses the funds to NVTC so that NVTC can pay the region’s bills to WMATA and fund capital and operations for the region’s transit systems. Please remember that these dollars in fact originate in Northern Virginia, collected as taxes, funneled through the state formulas and then returned to the region. So one could reasonably argue that these are actually Northern Virginia dollars to begin with.

5) The 2.1% Motor Vehicle Fuels Sales Tax is completely separate from all of the monies in question. NVTC continues to collect these revenues but they will only total to $30 Million dollars for FY 2012. Not nearly enough to keep Northern Virginia moving.

Kala Leggett Quintana
Director of Communications, NVTC

by Michael Perkins on Sep 29, 2011 10:04 pm • linkreport

@Mperkins, thanks for the update.

I'm a bit confused on the primary vs. alternatte. Is that to the NVTC board, or the WMATA board. The Governor has nominated one person for the WMATA board, and I don't see an alternate name being suggested.

Reading through the WMATA compact, I dont' see anything that would prevent this:

http://wmata.com/about_metro/board_of_directors/wmata_compact.cfm#III5

"(a) The Authority shall be governed by a Board of six Directors consisting of two Directors for each signatory. For Virginia, the Directors shall be appointed by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission; for the District of Columbia, by the Council of the District of Columbia; and for Maryland, by the Washington Suburban Transit Commission. For Virginia and Maryland, the Directors shall be appointed from among the members of the appointing body, except as otherwise provided herein, and shall serve for a term coincident with their term on the appointing body. A Director may be removed or suspended from office only as provided by the law of the signatory from which he was appointed"

As we have discussed before, Northern Virginia is not a state. State money collected there doesn't belong to the citizen of Northern Virginia -- it belongs to the state. Endlessly repeating that argument doesn't make it true. If WMATA doesn't want the CTB's $150M a year, they can turn it down. Or have Arlington and Fairfax fund it themselves.

by charlie on Sep 30, 2011 8:22 am • linkreport

BRAVO! Glad someone is standing up for taxpayers.

by Pelham1861 on Sep 30, 2011 9:22 am • linkreport

So.....can they articulate this "legal jeopardy" scenario? From whom? What entity and by what standing would this be challenged? Sounds like someone behind the curtain is girding for a fight in the courts over this, and does not want to show all their cards yet.

by Steve25 on Sep 30, 2011 9:37 am • linkreport

If WMATA doesn't want the CTB's $150M a year, they can turn it down. Or have Arlington and Fairfax fund it themselves.

WMATA is just plain stupid if they weigh in on either side right now. They don't have credibility to influence the issue and they badly need the money. This fight is between Northern VA politicians and statewide politicians. (This whole thing should have been avoided. Right, Mr. Virginia Senate Majority Leader?)

by WRD on Sep 30, 2011 10:11 am • linkreport

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