House of Delegates rejects tax increases for Metro, stands firm behind conservative funding and reform plan

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Legislation before governor does not include tax increases on homes or hotels

The Republican-led Virginia House of Delegates on Wednesday did not pass amendments to House Bill 1539 and Senate Bill 856 to raise taxes on hard working Virginians to fund additional spending on Metro. With the conservative leadership of the House, the two Metro bills will be returned to the Governor Northam without tax increases on home sales or hotel stays, as originally passed by the House of Delegates 94 to 1. The conservative funding and reform plan devotes additional funding to Metro and includes key reforms on board governance, cost-reduction measures, and oversight.

“Metro is a key asset to the Northern Virginia region and the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “The General Assembly passed this year a major funding and reform plan to ensure Metro is fully funded, but from the very beginning the House was clear that we would stand firm against tax increases for Metro. On Wednesday the 51-member House Republican majority defeated the tax increases proposed in these amendments.”

“From the beginning of this process my position was that any new funding for Metro had to go hand-in-hand with meaningful reforms without raising taxes,” said Delegate Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax). “Under this plan, Metro, an integral part of Northern Virginia’s transportation system will receive additional funding by using existing transportation dollars. Based on official estimates, the plan will redirect less than one-third of NVTA’s 2019 funding, leaving over $265 million for regional road projects. The legislation ties the funding to key reforms such as a 3% cap on annual budget increases, stronger oversight, and WMATA Board governance. Virginia’s funding is contingent on Maryland and D.C. meeting their regional obligations. Failure to implement the reforms will result in funding being withheld.”

“The House of Delegates stands firmly behind the conservative funding and reform plan as passed by the General Assembly earlier this year,” said House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah). “We were unequivocal about our opposition to higher taxes for Metro and today we kept that commitment as a unified caucus.”

Background

Reforms implemented by this legislation include:

  • A provision that operating assistance for WMATA cannot increase by more than 3% annually. If operating assistance requested increases by more than 3% then the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) shall withhold 35% of provided funding.
  • WMATA must create a detailed capital improvement program (strategic plan) covering the current fiscal year and, at a minimum, the next five fiscal years, and hold at least one public hearing on such strategic plan in a locality served by Metro. Failure to do so would result in 20% provided funding being withheld.
  • Stipulates that alternate WMATA Board directors may not participate at full WMATA Board or Committee meetings when the principal directors are present. If the WMATA Board of Directors does not adopt this by-law for each member jurisdiction, the CTB shall withhold 20% of available state funds.
  • The establishment of a four-member Metro Reform Commission. The Commission will advise and make recommendations on reforms to the National Capital Area Interest Arbitration Standards Act.
  • A Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) report to the Governor and General Assembly that includes: financial performance or Metro, financial performance of bus transportation, strategies to reduce costs, and measures to improve overall safety and conditions of Metro.
  • That WMATA cannot discriminate employment based on union-participation for projects initiated on and after July 1, 2018 and located solely within the  Commonwealth of Virginia.

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