Arlington formally offers Fair Share for Metro; Maryland delinquency continues
Arlington County has finalized their budget including more money for WMATA, the Post reported this weekend.
County Board member Chris Zimmerman, who is also Arlington's representative on the WMATA Board, specifically talked about transit funding:
"Arlington is saying if the other jurisdictions will step up to the plate, we will be willing to ensure that we don't retract service [and] that we don't cut back on the investment in the infrastructure by raiding the [Metro] capital budget, as is potentially on the table," said [Zimmerman] ... He said he believes Northern Virginia is committed to doing so, but is not sure about the District and Maryland.As Craig noted this morning, Maryland is currently looking at making extra bus cuts rather than increasing their contribution. Interim GM Richard Sarles' budget proposal asks Maryland for $13.9 million, of which $3.5 million will come from the state and somewhat less than $3.8 million could involve bus cuts.
The rest will have to involve state or local money. The Maryland legislature passed a bill to limit taxes for Park and Planning that would cost Prince George's $18 million. According to a source familiar with the situation, a potential deal is in the works for Governor O'Malley to veto it in exchange for the County using some of the local funds it saves to close the WMATA budget gap.
Weir also notes that "The board is using the annual $300 million to displace about $138 million of the local contributions by jurisdictions, says Jack Corbett, of the MetroRiders.org transit group. "Congress intended this as new money, not replacement money," he said.
Congress approved $150 million a year in new capital money as long as it was matched by jurisdictions, one-third from each. Some, including Corbett, expressed fears at the time that jurisdictions would just count some of their existing capital "overmatch" from Metro Matters toward their $50 million. At January's RAC meeting, I specifically asked WMATA Board Chairman and Maryland member Peter Benjamin whether Maryland would do this; he said they would not. Clearly, a lot has changed.
At today's DC Council budget hearing on DDOT, Committee Chairman and DC WMATA Board member Jim Graham strongly emphasized that DC does not want to see the capital budget cut and he is not pleased with the sudden windfall of capital money DC won't be giving WMATA.
Graham also said the WMATA General Counsel has issued an opinion on a technical but important question: Whether Maryland's lack of payment for capital obligations in FY2010 is a "failure to pay" or a "failure to appropriate." Apparently, Metro Matters says that if a jurisdiction doesn't pay what is promised, WMATA can borrow the money on its behalf and charge interest, but if the legislature of that jurisdiction just never appropriates the money, they can't. There was some question about which it was, and for at least some of the money, the General Counsel believes it's a "failure to pay."
I'm trying to get a copy of the letter. As is sadly the case with most of this sordid saga, it was handed out to Board members in executive session. This is a legal opinion so it could be valid, but WMATA management and the Board continue to keep many details from the public.
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