Ho­gan’s hard cash of­fer puts other Metro stake­hold­ers on the spot

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS Deb­o­rah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

So far, only one rea­son­able sug­ges­tion to raise new funds for trou­bled Metro is wor­thy of dis­cus­sion. Mary­land Gov. Larry Ho­gan re­vealed Mon­day that the state is ready con­trib­ute an ex­tra $500 mil­lion over four years to­ward fund­ing the re­gion’s tran­sit sys­tem — if the District, Vir­ginia and fed­eral au­thor­i­ties hitch them­selves to his wagon.

It’s a pledge the Repub­li­can gov­er­nor made in a Sept. 11 let­ter ad­dressed to his Vir­ginia coun­ter­part, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, and cc’d to Metro Gen­eral Man­ager Paul Wiede­feld and all eight of Metro’s board di­rec­tors.

Mr. Ho­gan ar­tic­u­lated a co­gent and com­mon­sense four-year plat­form, point­ing out, for example, that the lion’s share of Metro rid­er­ship is from D.C. at 55 per­cent, fol­lowed by Vir­ginia at 23 per­cent and Mary­land at 21 per­cent.

He but­tressed those points by say­ing that 42 per­cent of all Metro riders are fed­eral em­ploy­ees, mak­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment the big­gest “cus­tomer” of the area’s trou­bled and un­der­funded sub­way sys­tem.

Mr. Ho­gan in­sists he is not going to raise taxes or cre­ate a new tax on Mary­lan­ders on Metro’s be­half. His po­si­tion flies in the face of pro­gres­sives and Democrats, in­clud­ing Mr. McAuliffe and Miss Bowser, who failed to re­ject out of hand the idea of a tax hike to stream money into Metro’s cof­fers. Metro boost­ers ar­gue it’s the one ma­jor pub­lic tran­sit sys­tem in the coun­try that lacks a de­pend­able, ded­i­cated fund­ing source, mak­ing plan­ning, bud­get­ing and main­te­nance a con­stant headache.

But Mr. Ho­gan knows that once, say, a re­gion­wide tax comes into play, the tax-and-spend ide­ol­o­gists will never per­mit it dis­ap­pear. (Some­times, even poor folk don’t re­al­ize that sales taxes, the most re­gres­sive of taxes, are like hur­ri­canes — the af­ter-ef­fect blows back harder on them than they do on the wealthy.)

The tim­ing of Mr. Ho­gan’s let­ter is per­fect. Congress is re­turn­ing to Wash­ing­ton, the D.C. Coun­cil finally gets back to se­ri­ous busi­ness next week and the smell of a new fis­cal year is in the air. All that’s needed now is for the re­gion’s con­gres­sional lead­er­ship to join forces to make it hap­pen.

To be clear, for Democrats that means not merely preach­ing to their own choir but reach­ing out to Repub­li­cans, too — mind­ful, again, that more than 4 out of ev­ery 10 Metro riders are in the fed­eral work­force.

Metro’s over­seers are a mostly cum­ber­some and spend­thrift bunch, which is why they should fully ap­pre­ci­ate Mr. Ho­gan’s four-year ini­tia­tive to con­tinue mov­ing the trou­bled sys­tem for­ward and take the bill-pay­ing is­sue off the front burner for at least two years.

Be­sides, no other state or re­gional leader has pro­posed a more sen­si­ble fis­cal pro­posal.

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