St. Louis County voters will be asked to approve a 100% tax hike for the Metro transit agency on November 4. If Proposition M is approved, county tax dollars for Metro would go from $80 million a year to $160 million a year.
Voters should not approve a tax hike for Metro until some much-needed reforms are made. The transit agency is not accountable to taxpayers and operates far outside of public control - it even conducts much of its business in secret. Metro officials claim they do not have to comply with the Sunshine Law.
When the governor ordered a state audit of the agency in 2005, Metro refused to provide needed documents to auditors for more than two years. The audit was just released in September.
Metro claims it's headed for big deficits but the state audit tells a different story. It found Metro has $131 million of cash and investments on hand. Of the amount, $71 million is unrestricted and can go toward any deficits.
The audit also found that the Cross County MetroLink project, which had cost overruns of hundreds of millions of dollars, will cost taxpayers a total of $1.1 billion. Incredibly, Metro's CEO at the time was given pay increases and big bonuses by the board.
We all want a good public transit system for the St. Louis area. But giving a 100% tax hike to a transit agency with a record of squandering tax dollars, is not the way to go about it. A "no" vote on Proposition M is the responsible choice for county voters.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Tom Sullivan is the spokesman for the Public Transit Accountability Project, which advocates the main priority for Metro should be meeting the needs of those dependent on public transit. He lives in University City and has been involved in public policy issues for many years.