Virginia Politicians Respond to Proposed Cut to WMATA
U.S. House Spending Resolution would cut $150 million in the next eight months to WMATA.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) and Northern Virginia politicians are trying to fend off House Republican attempts to cut $150 million from WMATA's budget.
In a twenty-one-page document detailing program cuts, House Republicans cut a variety of programs in order to curb government spending, including the cut to WMATA. The transit authority is already anticipating a budget gap of approximately $72 million, which General Manager Richard Sarles hopes local governments will fill.
Bill Euille (D), Alexandria’s mayor and a member of WMATA’s Board of Directors, spoke on behalf of the organization about the pending cuts. “The House's deletion of the $150 million in [Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act] PRIIA funds will be devastating to the entire Metro system and its future,” Euille said in a statement to Patch.
The funds in jeopardy are used to upgrade the system’s infrastructure, safety and maintenance program, according to Euille. He also remarked that he and WMATA “encourage the GOP Leadership to reconsider their actions as soon as possible.”
Similarly, U.S. Representative Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) made an attempt to restore a matching grant of $150 million to WMATA to work on safety and infrastructure on Feb. 15 as an amendment. House Republicans struck down the amendment.
Representative Jim Moran (D-Va.), two Democratic representatives from Maryland and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton all co-sponsored Moran's amendment. Moran said he sponsored the amendment and opposes the cut because it will be detrimental to people in the area.
“This cut does not represent fiscal leadership; it demonstrates a willingness to pass the buck off to states, localities, and potentially Metro riders,” Moran said in a press release. “Critically, these cuts will limit WMATA’s ability to fully implement the recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board. Rider safety should not be compromised in order to score political points. ”
After his amendment failed, Connolly contacted Gov. Bob McDonnell by letter, requesting that he, join him "in opposing legislation that would eliminate the federal government’s $150 million commitment for Metro, which would threaten the economic prosperity of the commonwealth." He also said the cuts threaten the stable relationships between Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Delegate Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) joined Connolly in contacting the governor’s office to request his support in opposing the cuts. “Yesterday’s [Feb. 15] monthly revenue report for the Commonwealth showed that Northern Virginia was the economic powerhouse of the state, generating more revenue growth than any other area. Metro is the rocket fuel for Northern Virginia’s economy and the source of the ‘surpluses’ that the General Assembly is now spending,” Surovell said in a statement. “Governor McDonnell should fight to ensure that the federal government holds up its end of the deal.
According to the governor's press secretary, Jeff Caldwell, McDonnell supports Congress’ attempts to be fiscally responsible and reduce federal spending but does not believe that cutting WMATA funding was the right choice.
“The decisions on what to cut and how must be made prudently and wisely. While we work to reduce federal spending, we cannot harm vital infrastructure projects and services such as Metro that have a significant impact upon jobs and mobility and our economic vitality,” Caldwell said. “Smart investments in infrastructure can be a wise use of limited resources.”
Caldwell said McDonnell has been meeting with Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton and members of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation and intends to send a letter to Congress asking that they restore the funding.
None of Virginia’s representatives surrounding Metro lines voted in favor of the resolution.
GOP leader Representative Eric Cantor (R-Va.), whose district lies just southwest of the metropolitan area, voted in favor of the resolution but has not commented directly on the WMATA cuts and could not be reached in time for publication. However, he has commented on the resolution’s passage in the House in press releases on his website.
“As a part of our cut and grow plan, Republicans are cutting spending so that we can begin to get our fiscal house in order and foster an environment that encourages businesses to grow and create jobs. To put it simply, less government spending equals more private sector jobs,” Cantor said in his release.
The bill now moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid has already spoken out against the proposed cuts, referring to them as “draconian and unworkable.”