NO on the Metro tax (Proposition A)

Tom Sullivan

For members of the Washington University community, the only responsible choice on the Metro tax increase is to vote “no.” The tax will be on the April 6 ballot in St. Louis County as Proposition A. It would be the third sales tax increase for Metro and would be a 100 percent increase in revenue from county taxpayers—from about $80 million to about $160 million a year.

It would also be the third sales tax increase in St. Louis County in three years. For families struggling to make ends meet in tough economic times, it would only add to their hardship. Low-income families can pay five to six times more of their income, on a percentage basis, than those in higher brackets.

The millionaires and high-income people promoting the tax might find this hard to understand. This would include Washington University Chancellor Mark Wrighton, who was reported to be earning more than a $1 million annually in recent years from both his University salary and outside director’s fees.

Metro’s claimed financial crisis is completely contrived. It has lost some funding but also gained some. The increased revenue just from raising fares is about $9 million a year. Metro also receives funding from both the state and federal governments.

The transit agency is using the well-worn “doomsday scenario” in order to scare voters—unless you vote for this tax, people won’t be able to get to work and senior citizens and the disabled will be left stranded. In 2008, just before the vote on the Metro tax, County Executive Charlie Dooley had county government reduce Metro’s funding by $8.5 million. The funding was in the budget but was diverted. An even bigger crisis was then claimed.

What is absolutely shameless is Chancellor Mark Wrighton’s involvement in the hugely deceptive and misleading campaign to pass the Metro tax. He is repeating the threats that Metro has constantly made. It does not seem to bother him that Metro is providing multi-million dollar subsidies to the University while cutting back on service to those needing it the most.

In addition to the MetroLink system that connect the University’s various campuses, Metro has two bus routes that cater to the University and also provides a shuttle service that runs seven days a week from morning to night. About 98 percent of the shuttle riders use Wash. U. passes. The reason Metro is so generous to the University is that it allows the transit agency to inflate ridership numbers.

To members of the Washington University community: do the right thing and vote “no” on Proposition A on Tuesday.

Tom is the spokesman for the Public Transit Accountability Project. He can be reached via email at tsullivan@sullivanadv.net.

  • Virginia Gilbert

    This not “the third sales tax for Metro.” The last attempt to pass this tax failed. And when it did, the sales tax approved by St. Louis City voters YEARS ago, still did not go into effect, because the city’s tax was linked by ballot language to passage of the same tax in the county.
    The failure of the county to pass this tax last time around caused cancellation of a lot of bus routes, but especially ones in the city, where voters had approved the tax already.
    This is NOT a rich vs. poor thing, except that the poor will not have transportation if it doesn’t pass.

  • Louis Liss

    “Doomsday?” The State of Missouri provides no dedicated fund for transit, and contributes only small amount of Metro’s budget. Compared with transit agencies in other states, whose governments provide at least a quarter of their budgets, this amount is peanuts. Spinning this as Metro’s own personal doomsday is simply fallacious, as other agencies in other states have had similar problems, like Pennsylvania for example, where both SEPTA and Port Authority came very close to making drastic service cuts a few years ago, but luckily, the state government came through (sort of) in the last moments.

    “Multi-million dollar subsidies?” The University community pays more to Metro with the UPass program than before when they didn’t have it! Although the passes are discounted, they are purchased for every eligible member of the University community, regardless of who actually signs up for a pass.

    And as for Metro letting the University “inflate ridership numbers,” when it comes to transit, there isn’t bad ridership. Even if we use routes that are designed to serve the University with passes that are discounted, we still count every bit as legitimate riders.

    The most harmful thing we could do to our region would not be a tax; it would be cutting crucial, economically viable transportation infrastructure.

  • http://www.stoptheprop.com John Burns

    But Tom, no price is too high, no democracy too sacred, no political process too dysfunctional to avoid cutbacks on transit.

    It doesn’t matter how many people get hurt, it only matters that the political class and their acolytes feel good about themselves.