3% Subsidy Cap for Washington Mass Transit “Appears” to Help Virginia Taxpayers

Image source: Northern Virginia Transportation Commission

by James A. Bacon

A 3% cap on annual state contributions to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) “appears to be a useful tool” for managing runaway subsidies for the Washington-area transit agency, finds a report recently published by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC).

The main benefit cited by the report, required by state law, has been to restrain increases in wages and salary levels, which constitute 70% of WMATA’s budget. States the report: “Data presented to the Working Group found the annual wage increases for union employees range from 0% to 4% per year in the multi-year CBAs over FY 2009 – FY 2024, demonstrating that the cap appears to be a helpful tool in WMATA’s negotiations with labor.”

Otherwise the “Report on Virginia’s 3% Cap” is a curious document.
While it provides the graph (replicated above) showing year-over-year increases in operating subsidies since fiscal 2010-11, it does not reveal the absolute dollar amount of increases, either before or since the cap. Are we talking about $20 million a year in state subsidies? $200 million a year? Half a billion dollars? More? Less?  Some sense of proportion would be helpful. 

The report doesn’t even reveal how much the subsidies have increased since the caps were put into place? Did the bail-out funding increase by the full 3% each year? What was the dollar amount?

How could a report not include such information? The fact that such basic data is missing makes me wonder if there is a hidden agenda. What are the authors trying to downplay, and why?

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8 responses to “3% Subsidy Cap for Washington Mass Transit “Appears” to Help Virginia Taxpayers

  1. Another great reason for Virginia to donate NOVA to the new state of Columbia, proposed by the Dems.

    • Okay, that sounds reasonable, but how will Virginia progress with only half its population and 10% of its brain trust?

      • Drop 90% of NoVa’s “brain trust”? Sounds like a good start. God willing, we won’t “progress” any more than we already have. The damage is already bad enough.

    • You may have actually meant your comment in jest but I honestly think it’s an excellent idea. i see it as a win-win-win. The people in the DC suburbs of Virginia have a whole lot more in common with the people of DC and the Maryland suburbs of DC than they have in common with the rest of Virginia. It wasn’t always that way. Growing up in the 60s and 70s in NoVa it was obvious that there was a stark political divide running along the shores of the Potomac River. No more. The people of non-NoVa Virginia would also be much happier without Northern Virginia. They would no longer have to whine and cry about subsidizing Metro and other abominations visited upon them by the region of the state that keeps the rest of the state financially afloat. Forced to live without the river of money flowing from DC through NoVa to Richmond “New Virginia” might actually clan up its corrupt politics and embark on an economic development trajectory that includes more than “milk NoVa”. On the Maryland side, outside of Baltimore, people would be happy to be free of the DC suburbs. “New Maryland” like “New Virginia” would certainly become less wealthy but also more balanced. It might even breathe new life into the long disintegrating City of Baltimore.

      Politically, Columbia would be the brightest of blue while I expect “New Virginia” might revert to red or at least reddish. “New Maryland” could well become a swing state. Dissatisfaction with the Democrats is already present in “Old Maryland” as popular Republican governor Larry Hogan moves through his second term.

      Who knows – a smaller Virginia might even push the Richmond area from its similarity with Jackson and Montgomery to becoming another Atlanta or Nashville.

  2. Interestingly, WMATA told the Greater Tysons Citizens Coalition last night that, despite more rosy budget estimates, it only expects rail ridership to return to 39% of its pre-COVID level by 4Q21. When does WMATA start to reduce its costs, including head-count?

    • Right after the Fairfax County Schools reduce their headcount and budget given that enrollment has dropped 5%. One of the tricks of liberalism is pretending that government is flexible and can ramp both up and down. Other than the military – I just don’t see that. WMATA will cry the blues as will FCPS. Woke state and local politicians only know one direction for government spending.

  3. I’m having a hard time finding any hard numbers on the dollar amount of the operating subsidy paid by Virginia. I can’t even find it in the WMATA’s FY2019 annual report. However, the report does show a $121.3 Million contribution from Virginia to the WMATA’s Capital Improvements Plan.

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