New legislation calls for Metro-related sales tax hike

WASHINGTON — D.C. Council members are considering legislation that would increase the District’s sales tax by 0.75 percent in order to funnel money into the Metro system for repairs and maintenance.

The legislation, unveiled Tuesday, also would need to be approved by Maryland and Virginia before it could take effect.

“This revenue would serve as a dedicated funding source for Metro so that we can finally provide the funding it desperately needs to maintain and improve the system,” said Council member Jack Evans, who also chairs the Metro Board.

Evans said the tax would generate $500 million a year, which is what Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has called for.

“This is a start and we hope this lays the groundwork for Maryland and Virginia, when they have their legislative sessions beginning in January, to follow suit,” said Evans. “The only way to address the issues concerning Metro is to create new money, and that’s what a sales tax would do.”

Earlier this year, a panel of local leaders said that a 1 percent regionwide sales tax should be implemented to cover Metro’s funding needs.

“Doing nothing is not acceptable,” the panel concluded in a report for the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Metro faces more than $15 billion in funding needs over the next decade, according to Wiedefeld.

“Local governments cannot afford the steep bill for Metro’s needed capital and maintenance program while simultaneously financing their jurisdictional needs for schools and other critical infrastructure,” stated the panel’s report.

A sales tax, the panel said, is “the best, most equitable revenue option.”

According to a recent survey that was completed for groups pushing for Metro reforms, 70 percent of registered voters in the region support an increase in public funding for Metro, and about 50 percent support new taxes to pay for it.

The survey showed that 56 percent believe Metro is headed in the right direction, while 28 percent said the system remains on the wrong track.

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