METRO Referendum Could Confuse Voters

One of the closest local races on the ballot tomorrow isn't between two candidates. It's the METRO referendum — which asks voters to decide whether the transit agency should reauthorize a revenue-sharing plan with area municipalities.

Despite a television ad campaign and outreach efforts among voters, there's still a lot of confusion over the METRO referendum.

Part of the confusion may be caused by the fact that some prominent pro-rail and pro-transit groups are opposed to the referendum.

Nancy Sims is a political analyst with Pierpont Communications. She says this is probably the most complicated issue on the ballot.

"Most people don't realize that METRO gives a quarter of its one cent sales tax to cities and the county for road, bridge and street improvement. So this ballot question asks if you want to continue doing that."

If voters do agree to continue the general mobility payments, METRO will continue to share a percentage of its sales tax revenue. The amount METRO is required to share would be capped in 2014.

But what if you vote against the plan?

"There is a question of what it would do to the budgets of those cities and the county that receive that percentage of the METRO money. There are forces on the campaign trail saying that all of that 25 percent of the penny would then go to transit and more rail projects. But no one is really sure if that's true or what would happen if these general mobility payments stop."

Sims says it's difficult to predict which way voters will go, especially since the METRO item follows a number of bond packages. There's often a cascading effect in the ballot box, so whether you vote yes or no on the Houston and HISD bond proposals, you're likely to follow suit on the METRO race.

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Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...