Metro and mass transit funding: Differing proposals for funding up to about $150 million required for Metro made their way through the two chambers. House Republicans proposed to provide $105 million by redirecting existing Northern Virginia transportation funds, but that bill also caps increases in Metro’s operating budget to 2% per year. The House proposal (HB 1539) does not include funds for statewide mass transit systems nor does it provide for a regional gas tax floor for Northern Virginia or Hampton Roads. It does, however, include language for a new statewide prioritization process that will replace the current TSDAC tiers. HB 1539 passed the House 78-21.
The Senate version (SB 856), which passed 25-15 on the floor of the Senate, would provide $154 million for Metro, including increased regional taxes (transient occupancy tax, grantor’s tax, and gas tax floor for NoVa and Hampton Roads), as well as redirected state money and additional money from Northern Virginia local governments. VRE will also receive dedicated funding in this bill, similar to existing dedicated state funding that currently supports statewide Amtrak services. The statewide prioritization process is also included in this bill. An earlier proposed sales tax on ride services such as Uber and Lyft, which would have provided funding for statewide mass transit, was deleted from the Senate bill on Friday in the Senate Finance Committee. Resolution of these different approaches will probably occur in the context of the final discussion on the state budget.