WASHINGTON — Another fight over funding could be looming for Metro at a time when the system’s leaders say they’re scrounging for every dollar they can get.
The issue is $150 million that’s part of a federal agreement reached back in 2008. In the wording of the agreement, which was for a total of $1.5 billion over 10 years, the money would be paid out “over 10 fiscal years beginning in fiscal 2009, or until expended.”
While the payouts didn’t start coming until the 2010 fiscal year, the current fiscal year that ends on July 1 is the 10th year since that time.
“What a disaster that would be,” said Metro board chairman Jack Evans. “I hope they rethink that. I’ll just stress this: 42 percent of the federal workforce rides Metro every day. Everybody at the White House, in Congress, in all these office buildings downtown, they rely on us to get to work and to get home. And so the federal government does have an obligation beyond what they’re doing right now.”
Local officials are pushing for the “until expended” reading of the statement, which would provide the full $1.5 billion, while the Trump administration seems poised to argue time is up.
“Tom Davis, who drafted the legislation when he was in Congress, he said the clear intent was to get $1.5 billion, so the federal government still is committed to another $150 million, hopefully it’ll get worked out and we’ll get the money,” said Evans, who then expressed hope that the federal contribution would double to as much as $300 million.
That would happen under the terms of the next 10 year plan worth a total of $3 billion proposed by Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, of Northern Virginia. Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock is also pushing for a new funding plan, but one that would provide $225 million a year over 10 years.
Comstock’s plan may be more viable in part because Republicans have control of both the House and Senate.