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General Assembly conference committee reaches accord on funding for Metro

A bipartisan agreement on HB 1539 to increase funding and implement necessary reforms for Metro has been reached and sent to the governor for his signature, according to Del. Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax) whose district includes part of Prince William County.

The conferees were Delegates Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax), Chris Peace (R-Hanover), and Rip Sullivan (D-Arlington), along with Senators Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax), Tommy Norment (R-James City), and Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach).

“From the start, my position was that a funding package for Metro had to go hand-in-hand with meaningful reforms without raising taxes,” according to a new release from Hugo, who was the bill’s patron. “This legislation uses existing funds tied to key reforms like cost-reduction measures, better oversight, and WMATA Board governance. Our funding is contingent on Maryland and D.C. meeting their regional obligations,: Hugo was quoted as saying in the news release.

Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) was quoted as saying, “Delegate Hugo promised to reform the system and pledged to do it without raising taxes. I am proud of the work Tim has accomplished while keeping his promise to the voters who elected him.”

“The Metro system is a statewide asset crucial to the Commonwealth’s growing economy,” according to Delegate Richard C. “Rip” Sullivan in the news release. “By providing a dedicated funding stream of $154 million per year for Metro, we have led the way, and challenge our partners, Washington, D.C. and Maryland, to do their part to make this economically critical system sustainable. Failure here was not an option, and as a conferee on this important bill, I am pleased that we were able to reach a bipartisan agreement to reach this much-needed solution,” he was quoted as saying in the news release.

The release listed these reforms implemented by this legislation:

• Operating assistance for WMATA cannot increase by more than 3% annually. If operating assistance requested increases by more than 3% then the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) shall withhold 35% of provided funding.

• WMATA must create a detailed capital improvement program (strategic plan) covering the current fiscal year and, at a minimum, the next five fiscal years, and hold at least one public hearing on such strategic plan in a locality served by Metro. Failure to do so would result in 20% provided funding being withheld.

• Only appointed WMATA Board members may take action at official Board meetings, not their alternates.

• Establishment of a four-member Metro Reform Commission.that will advise and make recommendations on reforms to the National Capital Area Interest Arbitration Standards Act.

• A Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) report to the Governor and General Assembly that includes: financial performance or Metro, financial performance of bus transportation, strategies to reduce costs, and measures to improve overall safety and conditions of Metro.

• That WMATA cannot discriminate employment based on union-participation for projects initiated on and after July 1, 2018 and located solely within the Commonwealth.

• The effective date for this legislation is 30 days after the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland each enact legislation or take actions to provide dedicated funding for the WMATA.

The funding provisions of HB1539 include:

• $20 million in existing Northern Virginia Transportation District Fund directed to WMATA Capital Fund.

• $27.12 million from existing Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) revenues directed to WMATA Capital Fund. Each WMATA locality will pay an amount equal to the share of their NVTA distribution.

• $29.7 million from existing 2% regional Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) directed to WMATA Capital Fund.

• $44 million from existing Grantor’s tax directed to the WMATA Capital Fund. This excludes Prince William County, Manassas Park, and City of Manassas from having to contribute to WMATA, but funds must be spent on transportation projects.

• $10 million from 1% of existing motor vehicle rental tax directed to WMATA Capital Fund.

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