- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

With Metro in need of a dedicated funding source, some D.C. Council members said yesterday that they will take the lead in making it happen.

The D.C.-area transit system is the largest in the country without a regular cash stream earmarked for it. And at a hearing she chaired, council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, warned that if Metro deteriorated, it would put more drivers on the roads.

Finance committee Chairman Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, said local politicians have debated the issue for 11 years and action is needed now.

“We’ve made no progress. None. This is insanity,” Mr. Evans said.

A blue-ribbon panel recommended a regional sales tax of 0.25 to 0.5 percent, with the money dedicated to Metro. Mr. Evans said he is ready to move a tax bill through his committee — provided Virginia and Maryland do the same.

That could be the stumbling block.

Metro Board Chairman T. Dana Kauffman, of Fairfax County, accepted the challenge. He thinks the best way to get Richmond to agree will be a grass-roots and business lobbying effort.

Christopher Zimmerman, a Metro Board member from Arlington County, said state lawmakers could give approval for a sales tax increase in Northern Virginia once they understand the overall economic benefits of Metro — as well as the tax benefits the state will get in turn.

“Anything involving a tax is an uphill fight in Virginia, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible,” Mr. Zimmerman said.

Maryland’s two voting members of the Metro Board did not attend the hearing yesterday, but one later put the fate of the sales tax in doubt.

Asked whether he was ready to start lobbying for it in Annapolis, Charles Deegan responded, “I don’t think I’m there yet.”

“Every dollar we spend comes from the pocket of a hardworking American,” Mr. Deegan said.

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