A Big Show Of Support For Metro, But Voters Must Now Be Convinced
by: Pat Hernandez, September 11, 2012 12:09:00 pm
A 1978 referendum that created the Metropolitan Transit Authority allows the transit agency to be funded primarily by a 1-percent sales tax from Harris County, the city of Houston and 14 other municipalities within Metro's service area.
Since 1988, Metro was asked to take a quarter of that 1-cent sales tax it collects, and refund it to cities in its service area and Harris County. This money, the General Mobility Payment, or GMP, is to be used to repair wear and tear on roads damaged by buses, and to ease traffic in congested corridors.
This is Harris County Judge Ed Emmett:
"A lot of the complaints you hear is that levels of government don't work together. And this is an example of Harris County, the city of Houston, the smaller cities, Metro, all agreeing that this is the way to go forward, to the benefit of mobility in the region. So we all need to be on record, as supporting this proposal on November 6th."
Voters will decide on the distribution of the tax already received. If the measure fails, Emmett says the money would go back to Metro, and not to the county and the smaller cities.
"And as I remind people all the time of the 4 million people who live in Harris County, half of the them live outside Beltway 8, and only 500,000 live inside Loop 610. So you've got to maintain regional mobility and Metro understands that."
He adds voters have to be educated on what the measure means to mobility.
"It's at the bottom of the ballot. You have some people who will read it and maybe they don't like Metro, and so they're gonna vote against it without realizing that, by voting against it, they're really gonna be damaging the county and the city and everybody else. And it's a little bit of a convoluted ballot item, and so that's why we're trying to make sure everybody knows the county's fully behind it."
Metro Chairman Gilbert Garcia went before Commissioners to thank them for their support.
"And in particular, I wanted to highlight Commissioner (Steve) Radack, because he spent a great deal of time with me, rolling up his sleeve the weekend before the final language was approved, to really figure out what does Metro need, and how can we come up with a strategy that would bring all the jurisdictions together, that would also help solve the transit needs in the region."
Voters in 2003 decided to continue using the GMP for mobility projects, but the time has now come for extending that decision.