Transit Bill Passes House Finance Committee

A committee substitute for H 148 was affirmed 19-6 in the House Finance Committee this morning. The bill establishes a state matching grant fund (as yet unappropriated) and allows all 100 counties the option to place a quarter cent sales tax referendum before voters with the proceeds to be used for public transportation. The Triangle and Triad counties get a half cent option.

While the regressive and consumer nature of the sales tax places an unequal burden on low and middle income people compared to what will be asked of the wealthy and corporations, new additions present in the committee substitute bill affirmed today were welcome developments and showed a desire among the primary bill sponsors to create the broadest spectrum of support for the legislation (Representatives Ross, Carney, McGee and Allen and Senator Stevens).

The changes to the bill would require applicants for state funds to craft an affordable housing plan around transit stops and would enable the Research Triangle Park to levy a ten cent/$100 property tax dedicated to public transportation. The sponsors deserve great credit, as do Senior Finance Chair, Rep Luebke, Co-Chair Weiss and Senator Josh Stein for their tireless work to improve the bill.

Businesses in the RTP are to be commended for agreeing to step up to the plate to help fund a regional public transportation plan which would confer great benefits on commuters to RTP and around the region. Triangle Transit and Triangle region Chambers worked overtime working with RTP businesses to get agreement on the new levy. That change plus the affordable housing provisions make the funding of public transportation just a little fairer, and the chances of acceptable access to mobility for low-income households more likely.

The bill appears as though it will be considered by the House next week. After that, passage through the Senate awaits. How the state matching grant fund will be filled remains an open question. There is still much work to do.

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