Supporters to Lawmakers: Give Metro More Money

ANNAPOLIS — Metro, union, nonprofit and business leaders all spoke in one accord Tuesday, urging Maryland lawmakers to give second-busiest transit agency in the nation more money.

Delegate Maggie McIntosh of Baltimore City, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said she didn’t receive one letter in opposition.

“It does show what can be accomplished when you work together and you communicate,” said Jackie Jeter, president of the Amalgamted Transit Union Local 689, Metro’s largest union. “That’s the crux of this. When we are all in favor of something, we can all come together.”

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has said the agency needs at least $500 million next fiscal year to improve safety and reliability.

The legislation, sponsored by Delegate Marc Korman of Montgomery County, proposes at least $125 million comes from the state’s transportation trust fund toward capital cost for Metro. The main contingent stems from officials from Virginia and D.C. also approving money toward Metro.

The fourth party, the federal government, released a proposed $4.4 trillion budget Monday that proposes to decrease its $150 million portion for Metro to $120 million.

Metro supporters are leery of the Trump administration’s belief in mass transit and suggest Maryland lawmakers put up $167 million, a three-way split between Virginia and D.C.

The agency currently doesn’t receive dedicated funding.

“I am beyond disappointed that the Trump administration chose to cut funding for Metro in its [fiscal] 2019 budget,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia) said in a statement. “Especially at a time when most of our area delegation is fighting for the federal government to double its contribution and pay its fair share for the transit system that delivers more than 100,000 federal employees to work each day.”

During Tuesday’s hearing in Annapolis, a couple of Republican delegates asked why not requests a sales tax for businesses who open near Metro. ATU Local 689 presented a similar plan last year.

Delegate Jeff Ghrist, a Republican who represents portions of Western Maryland, said motorists in his jurisdiction shouldn’t pay for mass transit, especially since they rarely use it, if at all.

“Would you guys support a specialized tax dedicated to improving mass transit?” he said to a group testifying.

“Our position today is we take care of [Metro],” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of Coalition for Smarter Growth in northeast D.C. “It’s up to the policy makers to figure out the mechanism to do that. We’re saying it’s urgent to do that.”

Sen. Brian Feldman of Montgomery County will present a companion bill Wednesday before the Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III will be among those scheduled to testify in support of more funding to Metro.

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