Monday, August 10, 2009

About that 'new' transit tax ...

You'll remember the taken-out-of-context flap earlier this year about whether the N.C. legislature should add Mecklenburg to a bill that would let all the other N.C. counties ask their voters whether they wanted to levy a small sales tax to support transit.

Plenty of local blowhards both in local news media and elsewhere acted as if the request to be included was the same as actually imposing a higher tax. That, of course, was either deliberate mischaracterization or, to be kinder, incredibly sloppy reporting. The bill lets voters (in other counties) decide whether to tax themselves.

Anyway, it seems the bill (House Bill 148, which does not include Mecklenburg) is about to pass the legislature (it's on tonight's calendar), giving counties in the Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) and the Triad (Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem) a go-ahead, if they wish, to seek voter approval for a half-cent sales tax for transit systems there. All other counties (except Mecklenburg) can seek voter OK for a quarter-cent sales tax increase.

This is mostly good news, although transit supporters in Mecklenburg had wanted to be included. They wanted to have a tool in the toolkit of transit-funding options so they wouldn't have to expend the time and effort to do what Mecklenburg did in the 1990s: get a special, local bill giving us the authority for a 1998 transit tax referendum. Mecklenburgers still could seek such a special bill from the General Assembly if they wanted to.

The good news is that surrounding counties such as Cabarrus and Iredell are now free to seek local taxing approval if they want to extend the proposed Northeast or North transit corridors beyond Mecklenburg's borders.

Here's a summary from Boyd Cauble, the executive assistant to City Manager Curt Walton, sent to City Council last Friday. (I tried for a link to his memo but couldn't manage it. If anyone can find the thing online, please share the link.)

Intermodal Transit Tax
The House passed a transit funding bill (H148) in April and some questioned whether the bill would be approved by the Senate. Last Wednesday, the Senate voted 37-9 to allow the Triad and the Triangle to have the ½ cent sales tax authority for transit which Mecklenburg currently has. Additionally, H148 allows every other county in N.C., except Mecklenburg, to levy a ¼ cent tax for transit upon voter approval.

The Triangle area did an excellent job of soliciting support from over 100 separate groups and a cross section of bipartisan support in the legislature. Prior to the Senate vote, Senator [Malcolm] Graham and Senator [Charlie] Dannelly [both Mecklenburg Democrats] explored ways to honor the MTC [Metropolitan Transit Commission] and City Council’s request to include Mecklenburg in H148. Unfortunately, adding an additional taxing authority in the bill would have been considered a "material amendment" requiring five additional days for approval. The amendment alternative was abandoned because it would have jeopardized the bill’s passage this session.

Not joining the other 99 counties in getting additional voter authority to fund future transit is very disappointing, but it is comforting to know that now Cabarrus, Iredell, and other adjoining counties have the authority to fund extensions of Mecklenburg’s transit corridors.
Representative [Becky] Carney [Mecklenburg Democrat], H148 primary sponsor, said she has the support of her colleagues to push for Mecklenburg inclusion for additional funding in the future, if local transit supporters and elected officials get behind the movement.


Anonymous said...

No, I don't think these people will vote to tax themselves thugs into their neighborhoods. Most of them are citizens who left Charlotte to get away from the tax and spend liberals and the thugs they support. Cities where the suburbs connected to mass transit only increased crime substantially. That is exactly what happened to Cobb County GA when they connected to MARTA.

Anonymous said...

^ Excellent post. But before we begin to intentionally mislead people could you provide a source for the claim that crime increases with the availability of transit?

The other flaw, in your otherwise excellent statement, is that MARTA does not (and has not) ever run rail to Cobb county.

Let the people vote!

Anonymous said...

Mecklenburg County voters are just like the followers of Jim Jones. They've drunk the kool-aid and will do anything the democratic party asks them to do. Thank goodness the political leaders are inept to the point they couldn't even get the request in on time!

Anonymous said...

Whew! That was a close one! I'm glad I don't really listen to those "blowhards" on wbt, or my accountant.

Why not focus on all the NEW taxes that ARE going into effect to raise the 1BILLION the state needs?

You're article is a waste of cyber space. Get educated:

kickazzz2000 said...

Anonymous 7:23...

I weep for your two brain cells...ever longing for each other

Larry said...


As one of many media people who you say tries to make something different than it is, how about mentioning that we already have a transit tax.

In fact it is such a money grab for the govenment all the counties wanted in on the tax gravy train.

So they got one for their areas and to add Mecklenburg would have added another tool in the government tool box. as innocent as you wanted it to sound, but we citizens call it a TAX.

A TAX is a tax and if we were not so far in debt and with so many toys we might have not been so how did you say it, blowing so hard or not as hard as you are doing trying to make it seem we should try to get added as soon as possible. for the history of how we promised citizens this would not work and would need more money and they would cut service. We said that would happen even in a great economy..

Anonymous said...

I can never find a seat on public transit because the seats are always taken up by TVs and other stolen merchandise.
And everytime we go past a bank, all the robbers jump on trying to make a getaway.
It's terrible the crime these things bring.

Rick said...

Wow! The mischaracterization of what was reported and discussed a couple months ago is mind blowing.

HR 148 simply gives the other counties in the state the same or similar permission to what Mecklenburg already had permission to do.

The local pro-transit supporters then acted like the spoiled little child who whined and complained at the tax-and-spend party to eat his desert first and then cried hysterically that he didn't get a second piece when the other kids ate theirs.

Ms Newsom has the nerve to say it was the "blowhards" who caused this added permission to not be granted Mecklenburg?!?!?

That's a bunch of garbage.

How about the Committee of 21 recommending a road sales tax instead?

How about the Chamber not being on board with another transit tax?

How about Sen Clodfelter not being able to push through his blackmail to have any added tax dedicated to the Streetcar and Independence in exchange for his support? All of that being done as a payoff to the BPC for their support in the Transit Tax Repeal debate two years ago.

Not to mention that there were numerous Tea Partiers at every public meeting where this was discussed expressing public discontent with giving permission for new taxes.

Then Gov Perdue put the nail in the coffin by signing an added 1 cent sales tax which pretty much tapped out the sales tax as a revenue source anyway.

Finally, how about all of the financial projections from the pro-repeal side in the Transit Tax Repeal effort coming true? We said that CATS would be back to feed at the public trough, and here they are. We said there was no way 5 train corridors could be built and operated on a 1/2 cent, and they can't. We said CATS's projections of endless revenue increases under the current tax were pie in the sky, and they were. We said bus service would suffer under added trains, and they took the brunt of service cuts this past budget cycle.

All of those reasons are why Meck shouldn't be included in HR 148.

It's good that we're not!

But I'm not naive enough to think that CATS, with the help of Ms Newsom, won't keep trying.

Rick said...

And by "keep trying" this is what we should expect.

Mecklenburg County already has permission for an added 1/4 cent sales tax. That tax can be used for anything and I'm sure CATS is waiting to get its paws on it.

In two years, if the 1 cent sales tax increase in the budget is sunset as planned (a huge if, I know), then CATS and Ms Newsom will be back pushing for the added 1/4 cent.

They'll pitch it as we're getting a tax "cut" with the 1 cent going away and that adding the 1/4 cent back is no big deal.

Just you wait.

No more trains will be built in Mecklenburg county in the forseeable future without it.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how the pro-choo-choo faction is going to explain it when sales taxes in Mecklenburg County reach TEN PERCENT.

Don't laugh -- if they have their way, it WILL happen.

Anonymous said...

why is everyone so against allowing people to VOTE on a transit tax?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for making sure we 'don't worry our little heads' about this new power grab. Thanks also for protecting us from the 'blow hards' and explaining that the bill is simply to allow government to ask for more money - and it will. The arrogance of this article is mind blowing.

Anonymous said...

why is everyone so against allowing people to VOTE on a transit tax?

Because, as we already know, our local politicians and their loyal press lackeys will LIE, CHEAT, STEAL, and spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about what will happen if we *don't* vote for the tax. The only way to ensure that a tax doesn't get passed is to keep it totally off the table.

"The existing transit tax will be enough to support all the rail lines." LIE.

"We will have to cancel bus service for the handicapped and for the elderly." LIE.

"Trains will reduce pollution and congestion." LIE.

"We won't ever have to raise taxes again for transit plans." LIE.

Get the picture?

Anonymous said...


Mary is just plain nuts! She's a little bitter too.

This stuff just blows my mind!

Anonymous said...

So? If you don't like it, leave. Go to Bugtussle or wherever it is you can drive your obese SUV and gas up for cheap. Charlotte and Mecklenburg's future is highly urbanized. So is the future of the Triangle. Yay. I would happily support more tax increases to build out our rail system. I also want a subway down Providence Road so that those godawful lines of cars would diminish. I also want a subway stop at SouthPark. I also want our road network vastly improved. I would happily support tax increases for all of this.

Please do the smart people of the future, the 71% who voted to keep the transit tax in November 2007, a favor: Get out. Leave Charlotte and never, ever come back.

-Native Charlottean

Anonymous said...

"Because, as we already know, our local politicians and their loyal press lackeys will LIE, CHEAT, STEAL, and spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about what will happen if we *don't* vote for the tax. The only way to ensure that a tax doesn't get passed is to keep it totally off the table."

you mean like the first poster in this thread?

If you don't want people to vote on stuff like this then our democracy exists in name only.

Some folks want transit and are willing to pay for it. Let them vote.

Anonymous said...

Yes, 7:23, it'll bring the negroes, won't it? That must be why the residents of upscale Ansley Park in Atlanta are clamoring for a MARTA stop.

Anonymous said...

if the facts are on your side why are all you anti-transit zelots so against a vote?

Argue your point like adults and perhaps you could win an election.

Anonymous said...

Hey native Charlottean. You are not being a good disciple of Mary. You should have sold your house and purchased a box on the lite rail line by now. How dare you keep driving home everyday polluting our air! You selfish hypocrite!

"A subway down Providence Rd"

Good God! Will the insanity never end?

Anonymous said...

I live close-in and drive very little. If I had a transit option that didn't leave me standing out in the heat and cold, I would use that.

Your preference for a line of obese, gas-slurping, poison-belching buses that pollute Providence Road and its treescape every morning and evening tells me all I need to know about your so-called sanity.

Anonymous said...

The treescape on Providence Rd. still looks like it did 20 years ago. Healthy and vibrant! Those trees are pretty old and are still doing just fine. Keep waiting for everything to die out like you people say but it just doesn't happen does it? It never will.

I'm sorry you still continue to drive. Go ahead, tax me some more so you won't be cold or hot waiting for your public transit.

Climate conditioned public transportation stops for all!

Anonymous said...

Well, you could do us all a favor and leave for wherever the obese vehicle scene is best for you. Then you wouldn't have to pay to live here, because, well, (thankfully) you wouldn't live here.

Climate protected transit stops are also known as subway stations. It'll be a happy day when rail and metro rail (that's a subway) crisscross Charlotte.

Anonymous said...

the hypocracy of the anti-transit set never fails to amaze:

a) (frequently discussed during the futile repeal election in 2007) "The failure of American's to take responsibility for their own actions will destroy this country"

b) (echoed here) "American's are too stupid to be trusted with voting for or against a .25 cent increase in sales tax"

gezz guys, you gotta pick a point of view if you want to be taken seriously.

Anonymous said...

I bet Amarillo, Texas is a great place to live out an obese vehicle fetish. Mostly flat, very ugly, big freeways the way God intended. OKC is a good candidate, too but not Tulsa, it's too pretty.

Anonymous said...

I'm agin' the lyin' politicians that keep tryin' to ram those commie trains down our throat!

Oh..sorry...for a moment I was channeling most of the posters here.

Rick said...

I think you pro-transit types have your anger the memo in the post.

Unfortunately, adding an additional taxing authority in the bill would have been considered a "material amendment" requiring five additional days for approval. The amendment alternative was abandoned because it would have jeopardized the bill’s passage this session.

Apparently the only reason adding Meck to it wasn't done was because someone couldn't read a calendar.

Charlanta said...

LOVE THE LIGHT RAIL! It is simply awesome to hear so many think that adding trains and express bus routes is a waste. With that said, you simpletons should move to AR,MS, or AL where you do not have to worry about progress. I love taking the train everyday and enjoy the ease of missing the traffic on 85, 77 and most southern and northern legs. I would think that every suburbanite would love to have mass transit make their lives easier. There again, maybe we should let the nay sayers have horses to get around.

Anonymous said...

I love riding the light rail from my neighborhood to uptown, not only because it's convenient and frees me from my car, but because it makes Charlotte a more urban, egalitarian society that hammers a stake in the heart to the provincial narrowminded atmosphers some on this board loves so much. As others posters have said, if you don't kine it, move to the sticks where you belong.

Anonymous said...

In 2009 the Blue Line moves about 7,500 folks from free remote parking lots to jobs downtown and back each day. More than $500 million to build, $9 million/yr to operate, and $7.6 million/yr in debt payments. A "hit" for the few that get to ride vs. all the taxpayers (local, state, and federal) that pay for it. About $70,000 spent up to now per rider....

Anonymous said...

"The other flaw, in your otherwise excellent statement, is that MARTA does not (and has not) ever run rail to Cobb county. "

To those accusing the first poster of lying, he didn't say MARTA had run rail into Cobb. Just that they had connected to it--with a bus line to a MARTA transfer station...
MARTA works with many great partners in the Atlanta area concerning the transportation of our citizens. Here are links to sites of those whom we are fortunate to work with.
Cobb Community Transit (CCT) 
Cobb County's bus system.

Anonymous said...

what is a "blowhard"? Is that better then being a "blowsoft"?

What are they blowing? I am confused. Please explain, Mary

confused at Lake Norman

Anonymous said...

"To those accusing the first poster of lying, he didn't say MARTA had run rail into Cobb."

fair enough. But I will accuse the first (and later) posters of lying about the transit - crime link. We need some citations.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Spoofer said...

If I were a billionaire, I’d buy a sizeable chunk of South Carolina land north of Fort Mill, maybe the old PTL grounds, and push like crazy to get local governments on both sides of the state line to extend the Lynx Blue Line down to it. Then I’d re-develop the site into a mega-shopping, mega-residential complex.

Tax-conscious folks in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County could then ride the light rail down there to shop, taking advantage of the lower SC sales tax on their purchases. We could tack another quarter or so cents onto the local sales tax up here, and still come out way ahead!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Mary the revolution has begun. We are going to take back this country.

Dyslexic Dan said...


Anonymous said...

So why do we need to reduce taxes on the rich, other than for personal greed?

And the voters already took back the nation when they elected Obama.

Anonymous said...

Impeach Congress.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's smart let's raise taxes during a recession and give it to incompetent politicians.

Cato said...

Sorry, Mary, but you've uncritically parrotted the CATS/CCCP/UNCC/Chamber line on rail financing too many times to be in a position to question ANYONE's credibility.

You're just a frivolous propagandist.

Jumper said...

I wonder if Blogger has a more complex test for human-level intelligence than just decoding the wavy letters...

Anonymous said...

"fair enough. But I will accuse the first (and later) posters of lying about the transit - crime link. We need some citations."

Happened to us personally. Black kid stool my daughter's handbag at ImagineOn, hopped on a bus, rode out Central, got off, kept the bag, threw away the phone. Black girl saw him throw the phone away, grabbed it, used it for awhile, until we called her and she agreed to give it back to us. Went by her apartment and she gave it back. Perhaps next week I can link to more general cites to back the claim crime follows transit.

In the meantime think Eastland Mall.....

Rick said...

Went to a North Meck meeting last night where Mr Muth was speaking. After an hour of talking and saying very litte, people got to ask him some questions.

My personal favorite was in response to a persistent lady's question about whether the new authority granted to NCDOT mentioned by Mr Muth to help fund mass transit projects would take money from roads.


"I don't know where the money would come from."

It took a few questions to pry out of Mr Muth and his faithful sidekicks that basically there's little to no chance the North Corridor gets built. They didn't say that specifically, but what they did say while dancing around the question was telling.

No big stimulus money is likely. No new taxes are being pushed anytime soon due to the economy. No new money really from anywhere. Except, possibly from the developer community in the form of land donations for right of way, and TIFs.

Though, Mayor Swain stated that the finances haven't really been done yet regarding TIFs. That was in response to a question about whether or not the TIF plans had built into their models the possibility of a recession in the future. (They haven't would be the answer.) Oh, and she also said that the voices backing the BLE to the University have the advantage because they're "louder."

So, that's how things get done.