There have been some priceless comments associated with Metro funding in St. Louis and a few twists and turns in the ongoing budget debate, only matched by the effort of some to eliminate historic tax credits in the state. Today’s highlight isn’t eye-popping insane, but it illustrates the past, current and future funding problem that Metro faces.
Missouri House Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Pratt, R-Blue Springs voted against a bill that would have supplied $12M to Metro and restore some of the service recently cut. “The Metro bill may have killed the bill on its own,” Pratt said. “I’m not aware of any plan right now for the longtime sustainability of the Metro. They were looking for an infusion of cash without any plan to say they’re not going to need the cash next year or the year after.”
The fact is that the system does need the cash next year and the year after and the year after that and so on. What are the funding options for the Metro mass transit system? Increased fares? Additional sales tax revenue? More government support?
Increasing fares will impose a regressive cost on low-income riders and predictably decrease ridership, leading to further criticism that the system serves a limited number of people. Additional sales tax revenue has been voted down by popular referendum twice (It has been passed in St. Louis City but does not take affect until a like measure is passed in the much more populous St. Louis County). And Mr. Pratt seems to have the answer regarding more state government support while the federal government balks at supporting operating expenses.
I anxiously await the day that Mr. Pratt and others stand up and say, “The highway 54 bridge over the Missourah River will be closed until which time the bridge can pay for itself. The bridge will re-open once we can be assured that the highway will not need any of my taxpayer’s money next year or the year after.” Unfortunately the rural constituency rules Missourah.