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Metro Budget Deal Not Ready

The last little bit may be the hardest. The Metro board is $28.8 million away from resolving its budget gap for next year, but Finance Committee Chairman Peter Benjamin said that while they are "very close," he and his fellow board members weren't ready to set public hearings on a final proposal.

"All the jurisdictions were not ready at this point," he said. The transit authority staff says they've got one more week to resolve this before they bump up against the tight timetable involved in making changes in time for July 1, the start of the Metro budget year.

So look for real decisions next Thursday, March 12. Here are some of the unresolved issues:
* Jim Graham, the D.C. Council member who also serves as Metro board chairman, says that as far as the District is concerned, the idea of charging for parking on weekends is still on the table. Many of the Maryland and Virginia representatives -- the people from the jurisdictions where most of the parking is -- aren't crazy about that idea and would likely block it.
* The board could still decide to save some money by reducing MetroAccess service for disabled people so that it conforms more closely with the basic federal requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
* The board could decide to use some of the federal stimulus money to close the budget gap.
* Some of the Maryland and Virginia representatives think their jurisdictions may be able to come up with a little more money to help reduce the budget gap. Graham says the District can't contribute any more.
* Some of the budget issues have to be decided collectively by the board and some are up to the individual jurisdictions. For example, the jurisdictions have to decide how much of a hit they are willing to take on the bus services they subsidize versus how much extra money they might be able to contribute to Metro.

"They didn't have their specific proposals," Benjamin said of his fellow board members.

Bottom line for riders: You should know next Thursday how severe this year's transit service cuts could be. Once the board decides on a plan to send out to public hearings, it could later reduce those cuts, but it won't make them any more severe. And: "I would say that if there is one thing that isn't on the table, it's a fare increase," Graham said.

By Robert Thomson  |  March 5, 2009; 10:20 AM ET
Categories:  Metro , Transportation Politics  
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If we the tax payers are going to subsidize Metro then Metro should be free of charge. If that doesn't work then I say it's up to Metro to come up with the money they need.

Posted by: askgees | March 5, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

This may be WMATA's ploy to obfuscate the process, buying time. In this way, public hearings will be announced later, giving riders and their representative consitutencies less time to organize in response to proposed service cuts.

Posted by: pkpdc | March 5, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

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