Thursday, March 12, 2009

Transit tax advances - but not for Mecklenburg

The N.C. House of Representatives Transportation Committee Wednesday passed State Rep. Becky Carney's transit-tax bill, which would allow the urban counties of the Triangle and Triad to levy a half-cent sales tax for transit.

Voters in Wake, Durham, Orange, Guilford and Forsyth would have to approve a new sales tax, just as Mecklenburg voters did in 1998 and again in 2007.

All other counties could levy a quarter-cent for transit.

The only county that wouldn't be able to raise taxes for transit: Mecklenburg.

Carney, a Charlotte Democrat, said she originally hoped to give the county the ability to ask voters to spend more on transit, but that was nixed.

One voice of opposition was State Sen. Dan Clodfelter, a fellow Charlotte Democrat. Clodfelter wanted assurance that the Charlotte Area Transit System would make progress towards building a streetcar through central Charlotte and light-rail down Independence Boulevard before backing a bill that could give CATS more money.

Clodfelter is looking out for his east Charlotte constituents. But CATS is so cash-strapped now that it can't guarantee it can build a $400 million streetcar, or even light-rail down Independence, which would probably cost $1 billion.

Charles Hodges of the transportation advocacy group NC Go! said Carney's bill has a chance of passing the full General Assembly. One hurdle may be a reluctance of legislators to open the door for new taxes - even voter-approved taxes - in this crummy economy.

The legislation does have a small change that could impact Mecklenburg. It would broaden the definition of transit funding to include bike paths and pedestrian infastructure that supports public transportation.


Anonymous said...

Also author of a state prohibition buried in statute, Clodfelter has kept CATS from running articulated buses on heavy routes like #9-Central. Just as it was the rationale for this latest exclusion, Clodfelter's M.O. is holding other transit needs hostage until light rail is guaranteed on Independence.

Anonymous said...

So, broadening the definition would mean Char-Meck could ask to levy a tax or put a bond on the ballot for bike paths, ped. infrastructure, etc. and then take that money and put it towards rail?

Steve said...

I don't think so. I believe it means they could take existing half-cent sales tax dollars and use that money to fund bikes paths, etc., if it tied into public transportation. As of now, no new tax for Mecklenburg.

Rick said...

...but when the good Senator Clodfelter gets his extorsion payment in exchange for support of future taxes, that's exactly what it would mean Steve. Come on, you know how the game is played.

Just as the pro-train crowd did with the current transit tax during the transit tax repeal debate, they will say any new tax is about anything but trains. Then the money becomes all about trains once they get their hands on it.

The recent service cuts expose that lie just as similar cuts have exposed this in every city around the country that plays this game. $100k of cuts for trains. Many, many times that for buses - all so the capital reserve stays in tact for more train building.

When Mecklenbug gets their approval for more transit sales tax (and they most certainly will), I can see the campaign now.

"With this new tax we'll be able to extend greenways, build bike lanes, and enhance sidewalks all around transit stations."

Then, when the train comes in way over budget as it always does, those things will be the first items cut. That will come along with the standard excuses of unforseen inflation, enexpected revenue shortfalls, and unbelievable mistakes.

It's too perfect.

Anonymous said...

No more taxes. Abolish the state sales tax.

Anonymous said...

Dan Clodfelter is the most selfish man ever. I do not see how is is 'watching' out for the people of East Charlotte.

Build light rail and an expensive streetcar with no money, then I'll consider allowing you to have more money?!?! What an idiot!

Articulated buses should be permitted on Central Ave. as is - it would probably INCREASE the amount of people riding the buses while decreasing the operating costs for CATS because with increased capacity for each bus they do not have to run as many buses per hour.

This guy is a nut job. For real.

Anonymous said...

For years CATS buses ,especially route 9 and 11 should have implemented articulated buses on the high density areas. At the end the community is suffering from overcrowding , late or missed trips.