Transit tax shift doesn’t sit well at County BoardA shift of funds collected through a five-county mass transit sales tax to cover bus and rail operations drew the ire of the Washington County Board chair.
By: Jon Avise, Woodbury Bulletin
A shift of funds collected through a five-county mass transit sales tax to cover bus and rail operations drew the ire of the Washington County Board chair.
Commission Chair Gary Kriesel last week ripped a portion of the state’s budget fix that will require the Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB) — the regional coalition that funds transit projects in the Twin Cities metro area through a dedicated quarter-cent sales tax — to increase the portion of operating costs it covers for transit corridors that received CTIB funding from 50 to 75 percent.
The shift will use CTIB funds to cover costs that have been a responsibility of the Metropolitan Council, which oversees the operation of mass transit in the Twin Cities metro. It will cost the transit board $15.3 million in funding generated by the five-county tax each year, said Washington County Transportation Planner Ted Schoenecker. CTIB funds generally are used for transit construction and expansion, not to cover ongoing operating costs.
That left Kriesel, who represents Stillwater on the Board, incensed.
“It’s almost like they’re trying to knee-cap us on transit,” he said.
State lawmakers had considered taking a larger portion of CTIB’s annual revenues to cover the operation of regular bus lines in Met Transit’s system following budget cuts. That plan never came to fruition, but Kriesel decried what he said was a “grossly unfair” move by the state to raid tax revenues from a coalition set up as a stable funding mechanism for growing mass transit in the metro area.
State officials need to come up with a plan to fund transit projects, Kriesel said, “otherwise, get out of the way and let us be successful.”