Several Metro board members made individual proposals for ballot concepts for the November referendum on whether to continue diverting 25% of transit sales tax revenues to unincorporated Harris County and 15 area cities, thus ending transit expansion in the Metro service area. The diversion is known as the General Mobility Program.
The following is a compilation of notes taken during the board session and are in several places incomplete. Only one board member, Christof Spieler, immediately made his proposal available to Houston Tomorrow. Spieler notes that his proposal is public and may be shared.
[Bulletin: Metro has just posted the video of the discussion here. It is the first item in the Archived Videos section.]
The board members making individual proposals were Carrin Patman, Christof Spieler, Chairman Gilbert Garcia, Vice Chair Allen Watson, and Dwight Jefferson, all of whom were appointed to the board by Houston Mayor Annise Parker.
Members Bert Ballanfant, Gary Stobb, Lisa Castañeda, and Cindy Siegel made a joint proposal, read by Ballanfant, to continue the 25% diversion (with no cap, and no allocation rules, and no term). Stobb and Castañeda represent Harris County, and Ballanfant and Siegel represent the 14 multi-cities. All of those receive the tax funds.
Jefferson proposed an “up or down” vote. He said his decision was based on community input, although he really favors a compromise. He proposes this choice: (A) continue the diversion at 25%, or (B) discontinue the diversion and Metro would retain all of the 1% sales tax.
Patman said she favored an “up or down” vote as well, but her proposal seemed to relate to the language that was on the 2003 ballot that established the Metro Solutions plan, and continuing the payments to 12/30/16 and requiring another election by 9/30/16.
Chairman Garcia also proposed an A/B choice, but (A) was to cap the payments at 2014 levels or (B) continue to pay 25% of the jurisdictions’ sales tax collections to the jurisdictions, essentially the current system. His term was to 2030, when presumably there would be another referendum. He was specific that (B) would mean that each jurisdiction gets 25% of its sales tax; all except Houston get much more than that now. (A) has no allocation stipulated)
Vice Chair Watson proposed a cap at 25% of 2014, plus a provision for Metro to have additional sales tax bonding capacity for non-rail projects, given that another governmental entity (city, management district, TIRZ) provides at least 15% of the construction cost. He also stipulated that each member jurisdiction must get at least 23% of its sales tax back.
Spieler’s proposal is complex, (and is available here) but essentially suggests another referendum in five years, during which time the County and the cities would continue to take money, but only at the 25% level, and Metro would get new bonding authority up to $640 million based on its share of the sales tax revenues. It would use the bond revenues to build out the four lines specified in the 2003 referendum, which would add the University line west of Main to the three lines now under construction.
A provision of his proposal would require the City of Houston to pay for the roadwork, utility, and right of way portion of the University line project (but not the transit facility itself) out of its General Mobility payments.
[Note: we will update this account as details become available]