Metro milestone possible as Va. lawmakers meet Saturday

RICHMOND, Va. — Despite the failure to reach a two-year budget deal, a major regional milestone is possible on the final day of Virginia’s General Assembly session. Saturday could see the first ever dedicated regional funding for Metro.

It is do or die for the measure, ahead of adjournment expected by midafternoon, but several people familiar with the matter were extremely optimistic that a Metro funding deal would be presented to the state House and Senate.

Those people also expected the conference agreement to provide $154 million annually in new funding, or something close to it, which would mirror the Senate bill and meet Virginia’s full share of a $500 million minimum total Metro requested from the region. The House had proposed somewhat less funding.

Crucially for some skeptical lawmakers, the deal is expected to include cost caps and other additional reviews of Metro.

Friday evening, as the General Assembly’s office building emptied out, negotiators from the House and Senate were still working on the deal.

While details were not available early Saturday morning, and several people remained concerned the deal could fall apart, the initial bills approved by each chamber indicate most of the new funding is expected to come from Northern Virginia taxes, some of which would be simply redirected from other uses.

The Metro funding deal is not barred by the General Assembly’s failure to reach a two-year budget agreement for the period starting July 1. Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to call lawmakers back into a special session within a few weeks to take another run at reaching a deal.

Medicaid expansion remains the sticking point, with support from the House and opposition in the Senate.

Democrats would only need to flip two votes in the Senate to get expansion through.

Regional funding plan

Maryland and the District are expected to match this Metro funding with their own shares, which made Virginia reaching a deal Saturday crucial.

Maryland’s General Assembly session has about one month left. The House of Delegates there sent a bill to the Senate that would provide $150 million annually.

The D.C. Council expects to act after Maryland adjourns since District legislators meet year-round.

 


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