The Seattle Times reports that Metro’s substantial stimulus grab will help with their budget shortfall:

Over the next two years, Metro will receive $25 million for maintenance and $46 million to replace aging diesel buses with hybrids.

“It helps us from reducing service this year and prevents us from reducing jobs here at Metro,” general manager Kevin Desmond said Wednesday, at a briefing to elected officials in the county’s regional transit committee.

A steep plunge in consumer spending — sales taxes subsidize 71 percent of Metro’s operating budget — is creating a $326 million gap between Metro’s income and its plans for huge service expansions for 2008-11.

To stay afloat, Metro boosted fares by a quarter per trip last month and will raise them another quarter next year. The agency canceled some maintenance and capital projects last fall, but none that riders on the street would notice.

Those moves and the stimulus trimmed this year’s shortfall to a manageable $17 million, likely to be covered by cash reserves. The overall budget is around $600 million this year.

However, the real crisis for Metro is the revenue shortfall for next year. That budget was recently projected to have a $100 million dollar revenue gap, which would translate to a service reduction of 20%. We asked Metro what affect the stimulus would have on next year’s revenue gap, but we didn’t hear back from them in time for publication of this story.

Update: Metro got back to us. A spokesperson for the transit agency said, “In general, the stimulus money will help free up some revenue that can be applied to operating expenses in 2009 and 2010. But this revenue will not make up for the deep loss of sales tax revenues. As far as future transit service reductions, Metro will be developing options in the coming months for dealing with the budget shortfall. It’s too early to say how service would ultimately be effected.”

23 Replies to “Metro’s Bleak Budget Aided by Stimulus”

  1. This is wrong. YEs I take the bus and yes I will benefit from this. However, just because something is to my advantage, does not make it right. NO federal dollars should go to transit. None. It is wrong for people outside Washington state to pay for our transit. Just as it is wrong for us to pay for other states transit. I believe this violates the 10th Admenment to the Constitution.

    1. Is the interstate system wrong too? Transportation is certainly a valid national interest and absolutely affects interstate commerce.

    2. Nice in concept and I’d like to see less “sows earmarks”. Clearly the federal government does have a role in local funding. Disaster relief for example. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

      Funding transit could be positioned as in the interests of national defense by saying it helps decrease our dependency on foreign oil. I’m not sure that’s the case but it’s certainly as arguable as continued funding of the interstate highway system being essential for national defense.

  2. The Interstate’s purrose is for military equipment to move through the country easier. People forget that is why President Ike created it. The people get to use it. It is also a road system that was created to run through more than one state. That puts it in the federal system. Local roads and local transit should be paid for by state and local.

    1. President Ike never intended for the interstates to run through urban areas and be used for local commuting.

      Local roads and local transit should be paid for by state and local.

      Does that mean the construction of I-5 through Seattle should be fully paid with local money instead of the 90% federal funding they got back in the 60s? It is called an interstate system yet nearly twice the vehicle-miles travelled on interstates occur within urban areas for commuters than for rural and interstate purposes . Also, federal money for highways spent in urban areas places locally funded transit at a disadvantage. It was only in 1964 when mass transit was given federal support and in 1973 when highway funds could be used for mass transit capital projects with up to 80% federal matching.

    2. That was Ike’s reason for creating it. The same reason Germany created the Autobahn. Remember also Ike’s remark, “Beware the military-industrial complex.”

  3. I cannot get past the fact that funding local projects are unconstitunal. We are ignoring the 10th admendment because it is inconveniant.

    1. It would absurd to continue to fund the federal highway system but not fund transit. That would be social engineering from the feds to move away from transit. Who cares what the reason for creating the highway system was — if the 10th amendment prevents transit funding then of course it would prevent the federal government from funding highways since the highway system isn’t explicitly mentioned in the constitution.

      But it doesn’t, of course, according to the Supreme Court. So if we’re going to spend money it should be done on merits and not selectively choosing to enforce odd interpretations of the 10th amendment. Obviously states have a right not to build transit, the federal government doesn’t force them to, it just offers money in case they do.

  4. I believe in following the 10th amendment as it was intented when passed. I do not believe in changing the constitution by sayung that we interperate things differently now. I believe that the only way to change what the constitution means is through the admendment process.

    1. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

      Intentional vague like all great government guiding principles I fail to see how this precludes the states, through representation in Congress, from collecting funds and distributing in any manor they so see fit. If States refuse those funds (and the attached strings) then so be it. We’ve seen examples of this in the current stimulus.

    2. I can respect that interpretation but the current way that the government operates falls outside of your interpretation and has for generations. Transit seems like an odd place to start, in particular.

      But I mean, the 16th amendment explicitly permits congress to have taxing authority. Congress explicitly makes laws and thus determines the spending of that money. The Federal Government can indeed offer states, regions, cities, companies, and individuals money but cannot compel their acceptance. For example, it would likely be unconstitutional to force Seattle to build a transit system with our own money.

  5. The federal Goverment has the right to raise an income tax. (when it passed, the people were promised that most people would not be taxed. This changed during WW2. The people were promised that the income tax on the people except the top earners would be repealed after the wars end.) The 16th amendment did not repeal the 10th amendment. Income taxes imposed by the federal goverment should only go to areas that the Constutition specificly says that the federal goverment in responsible for. The Military first, in my view.

    1. “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.”

      The General Welfare clause means that Congress can spend money on national interests. National interests not being explicitly defined, it seems like transportation can be one of them.

  6. The purpose of the 10th amendment was to place limits on the goverment. To make sure the general welfare clause does not get abused. Like taking taxes from one state to benefit another state.

    1. Many scholars say that the 10th amendment is a truism, i.e. it is stating what already follows from the constitution itself. So the 10th amendment doesn’t limit anything more than the original constitution does. You cannot have a clause like “general welfare” and say that it is not a broad clause. This is explicitly why congress has the power to spend money. Transit is not a regulation or a law imposed on people, it is merely spending for the general welfare.

      “General” further implies that you can’t take taxes from one region and wholly direct it to a region without constitutional questions. The constitution itself bans taxing different states or regions at different levels. The 10th amendment covers neither such topic.

      1. Of course you could philosophical reasons that are extra-constitutional for opposing such spending, such as the desire to see the elimination of the federal income tax. Just because the constitution allows something to be done doesn’t mean it is necessarily right. I do believe that federal money should be used in the national interest, while you may believe that states are more capable of deciding their state’s interests which leads to a stronger nation.

    2. Well between general welfare, the military, the commerce clause, post roads, and the “necessary and proper” clause you have all the loopholes you need to drive a proverbial truck through.

      You can argue that 99% of what the Federal Government does is Unconstitutional but for the most part the courts haven’t agreed with you. Under the Constitution the courts pretty much have the final say on constitutionality barring a Constitutional Amendment.

  7. First the constitution did not give the final say about the constitution to the courts. The courts took it for then selves with the Marbury vs. Madison case. Second, through most of our countries history most of the peope, political thinkers and courst would have agreed with me. President Wilson was the first major political figure to talk about modern interperations. The idea did not catch on until FDR.

    1. Marbury vs. Madison is pretty well established precedent. I’d say it is pretty unlikely to be overturned without a Constitutional Amendment.

      As to your second point, the Executive and Legislative branch have been going beyond the extremely strict and narrow interpretation of powers you seem to favor since the beginning.

      In any case this is largely moot as well. None of the 3 branches seem inclined to agree with you, nor the several states, nor a majority of the people.

  8. Majority rule is not always majority right. I’ve got to fight for what I believe even if I am the only one.

    1. Sure, but to argue on fundamental Constitutional grounds ignores that if this were considered an issue then the amendment process would be invoked.

      In terms of Congress spending money, I don’t think that has ever been in doubt. Using that money for back-door regulations, sure. But simply spending money? No, general welfare clause has made it clear that congress can spend money.

    2. Well the thing is you can argue something is Unconstitutional until you are blue in the face, but if the insitutions charged with upholding it as well as a majority of the stakeholders aren’t inclined to agree it won’t do a heck of a lot of good.

      Even if there were to suddenly be new doubt as to the constitutionality of certain long-standing US Government activities as John said the constitution would be amended in record time.

  9. If the Constitution were amended then I would not be complaining about it. That is the way the constitution should be change. The only way.

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