Voters would be wise to reject sales-tax hike for ‘terribly run Metro’

What would be one of the biggest taxpayer ripoffs ever will be on the Nov. 4 ballot in St. Louis County — Proposition M.

It is a half-cent sales-tax hike for the terribly run Metro transit agency and would result in a 100-percent increase in revenue to Metro from county taxpayers.

Metro has been receiving about $90 million annually from the county. This comes from a half-cent sales tax that’s divided between roads and Metro, and all the proceeds from a quarter-cent sales tax. However, County Executive Charlie Dooley and the County Council just reduced the amount about $10 million so Metro can claim it is headed for a deficit.

If the tax is approved, it would mean another $80 million for Metro from the county, for a total of about $160 million a year. It would also mean a quarter-cent sales-tax hike for Metro in the city of St. Louis. In 1997, city voters approved a quarter-cent increase, but county voters did not. It can not go into effect unless county voters approve a similar increase. The amount from the city would go from $27 million to $36 million each year.

Though the county can be expected to provide more funding for the area’s public transit, things have gotten way out of whack. For example, of the $1.1 billion cost — including finance charges — of the eight-mile Cross County MetroLink Extension, county taxpayers will pay about $800 million. The Post-Dispatch named the project “Boondoggle of the Year” for 2005.

In 1990, the county was giving Metro — then known as Bi-State — only $30 million a year. Funding has vastly increased over the years while service has gotten worse. Unless voters want to give more money to an inept transit agency and finance more billion-dollar boondoggles, they would be wise to reject Proposition M.

Tom Sullivan

University City