LTE: Raising Taxes Is Not the Solution
A reader shares his remarks to the Board of Supervisors regarding Metro and how it will not accrue equally to all communities in Loudoun County.
Mr. Chairman, members of the Board,
I see two kinds of people in Loudoun County, those that do not want rail and do not want to pay for it, and those that want rail and do not want to pay for it.
As a transportation system, the value of Metrorail is mostly inspirational, once you break down the subsidized cost per rider. But think back a few weeks to the thousands of people who parked their cars in the middle of the highway to watch the Space Shuttle land at Dulles. That’s a highly inspirational transportation system.
Sometimes the value equation goes beyond a simple return on investment number. While it galls me to send billions of dollars to the Washington transportation Cartel, and I feel that the debt and spending for Metro pays for expensive apples in hopes that we get cheap oranges, I also think that we cannot ignore the evidence of popular support, and the willingness of the Chamber of Commerce to step up and shoulder some of the burden.
However, the benefits of Metro will not, in my view, accrue equally to all communities in terms of business opportunity and land values. So, I appeal to the board to avoid a County-wide C & I or general property tax as a funding solution.
I also appeal to the board to avoid sharply penalizing the very agents of economic growth we depend on to grow the economic base that removes the need to extract more taxpayer dollars for Metro. That money needs to stay in the community.
I would like to offer a hybrid solution: The board needs to set a target for economic performance, and let the developers and business community do their thing. If the raw economic power of Loudoun cannot generate enough productivity to pay for Metro, then we have no business staying in the project. But we need to see some evidence beyond rosy projections that the property values and commercial energy near the rail stations will carry the weight.
Therefore I would consult expeditiously with the affected communities and ask them to accept a set of triggers that would engage specific funding mechanisms at specific milestones if Loudoun stays in. If the response is affirmative, then the board develops the best set of plans possible and puts them on the ballot in November, for the fiscal 2014 budget, with the understanding that failure to pass the referendum means the C & I and general tax increase are back on the table.