Another fight over free Metrobus brewing between DC leaders

When D.C. Council chair Phil Mendelson and Ward 6 council member Charles Allen proposed free Metrobus service throughout the city last year, it wasn’t exactly embraced by Mayor Muriel Bowser.

But a report of revenue estimates by the District’s chief financial officer Glen Lee found that the funding for free Metrobus would come through the dedication of local sales tax revenue, as long as the city’s revenue estimates in December and February were above the budgeted revenue amount for the coming years.

The new estimates are being revised downward to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars over the next three fiscal years, prompting Lee to write that the funding criteria will not be met.

He then adjusted city revenues without the free Metrobus service, which was slated to begin this summer.

Then a day later, Mendelson and Allen released a statement together, with Mendelson questioning what legal authority the CFO had in rescinding the money.

Allen, for his part, said in the same statement that “it’s the council’s job — not the CFO’s — to make policy decisions about how to spend our dollars. I’m also concerned with the CFO’s pattern of vastly underestimating District revenues — by more than $800 million in FY 22 and so far, updating their anticipated assumptions for revenue by $128 million for this year.”

Asked about the situation on Wednesday, Bowser seemed to side with Lee, saying “it’s never a good idea to spend money that you don’t have, that you haven’t even collected.”

“I think that was what people were promised back in December based on revenue estimates that didn’t come to fruition,” Bowser said.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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