Since 1988, Harris County, the City of Houston and 14 other municipalities within Metro's service area have received 25 percent of the 1 cent sales tax collected by the transit agency for a variety of projects, from mobility to maintaining streets, bridges and sidewalks.
That program is set to end in 2 years, and the question of whether Metro should keep all the money going forward, or whether it should continue to distribute the tax revenue to local municipalities will be put to voters in November.
Gilbert Garcia chairs the Metro Board:
"As you know, we've been going through a very long process. Because of the 2003 referendum, we have to call another referendum within those guidelines. There's two potential election dates. We voted on having a referendum in November. And the other thing is, we've now continued the process that we've outlined a while back. So we went from sort of infinite ideas, to five general proposals. The staff will then analyze them all, because we want to see how it affects Metro."
Garcia says he wasn't surprised that there was an array of proposals presented by the other board members.
"Not really. I mean at the end of the day, everyone has been working very very hard, and I understand everyone has their own different views, and so I'm not. I always knew there would be somewhere between one and nine, and we got something in the middle. I think that's healthy, I think it keeps the dialogue available to the public and to everyone on the board. But I do think we have now moved to start getting to a more finite plan."
Harris County receives about 18 percent of Metro's General Mobility Fund, which has helped pay for several transportation projects. Earlier this week, Harris County Commissioners approved a resolution to support continuation of the project as it currently exists:
"I respect the Commissioner's Court, but we have a process that's been in place for some time. The public has been involved. We had lots of testimony, and we're gonna continue the process, and ultimately get to one proposal, and have ballot language by August 17th."
Garcia says he'd like to see the program capped at 2014 levels, but the board now has work to do with deciding on one proposal to present to voters.
"In my proposal, there's gonna be a choice, and they're very different choices, which we'll outline August 3rd on what can be done with transit, given those two choices. But ultimately, I think the people should decide, and I'm very comfortable with this process. I'm very comfortable we're gonna get to some ballot language, and ultimately whatever the voters decide, I'm gonna support."
Metro will choose one of the five proposals August 3rd, and will then craft ballot language for the November referendum..