House pulls funding bill for Metro transit agency

Baer urges residents to voice their support for state funding

By BURKE WASSON

Metro transit-agency officials learned last week that they will not receive $20 million from the Missouri House of Representatives to restore some of the $35.7 million in service cuts imposed this year.

The House last week pulled House Bill 20, which would have allocated $20 million to Metro, and introduced a new spending bill for the Federal Budget Stabilization Fund. That new bill does not include any transit funding for Metro.

With a few weeks remaining in the state legislative session, Metro CEO Bob Baer last week pleaded for residents to voice their support for Metro in hopes of securing some state funding to restore service.

“There’s still three or four weeks left in the session,” Baer said. “… There will also be action in the Senate as we go on. So, we’re hoping that there’s still an effort here and still an opportunity to secure funds. While discouraged, we are not giving up. We can’t lessen our efforts to press the state for funding. Too much is at stake. This is a crisis. It’s been a crisis and it’s not getting better. Now it’s getting worse.

“I will go back to Jeff City next week and I encourage any who have an interest in transit, particularly the public, to express your point of view of concern and support for Metro and the services we provide. Your voice is heard. It does make a difference …

“This is an issue that is not only Metro’s. It is an issue for thousands of people who rely on us, for employers, for all kinds of facilities that we serve. So please support this effort to get funding from the state. This is a long way from over,” he said.

While Baer also has said that he would like to put a sales-tax initiative before county voters by next April, Metro Director of Communications Dianne Williams is also pushing for state funding.

“Both the Speaker of the House (Ron Richard) and the Budget Chair (Allen Icet) have been supportive,” Williams said. “So this was quite a surprise. We will continue to reach out to our delegation that comes from this region, but also to our elected officials statewide to continue to impress upon them the good that could be done by restoring transit service to this region …

“Illinois has about 200,000 people in St. Clair County, and the state of Illinois sends to those 200,000 people about $20 million (per year) to support transit for them. St. Louis city and St. Louis County are a strong economic engine for the entire state, and 1.3 million people live in just St. Louis city and St. Louis County alone. And we get about $1 per capita in terms of state funds compared to Illinois’ about $100 per capita.”

Metro officials also had hoped to temporarily restore one-third of those routes with a proposed $12 million in federal congestion funds through the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, Federal Transit Administration and Federal Highway Administration.

But those funds also were recently denied.