So, as expected, last week the Translink Mayor's Council and the Transportation Minister have apparantly come to an agreement involving funding the Evergreen Line, using gas tax. The media has been repeatedly reporting that the Evergreen Line will be funded through a 2 cent per litre gas tax increase.
BUT IS IT REALLY ?
For some reason, they are not reporting the whole story here !
The WHOLE story is that the agreement apparantly is 2 cents pre litre gas tax, which will generate about $ 40 million per year, plus an addtional $ 30 million per year to be funded from an as yet undetermined source. And if that source is not found by mid 2012 then it will be funded from property tax, at ABOUT $ 23 per avg household per year. (The 2 cents is equivalent of about $ 34 per household avg property tax).
So what's it all about ?
The 'Moving Forward' package proposed by Translink's Operating Board requires $ 70 million annual funding. The description of the package can be found on the translink website, on my website (http://www.mikeclay.ca/default2.asp?active_page_id=1803) and includes:
- major upgrades to the Main St, Metrotown, New West, and Surrey Central stations
- more seabus service
- over 200,000 additional transit service hours south of the fraser, 425,000 system wide
- New B-Line service from White Rock to Guildford
- Hwy 1 rapid bus from Langley to Lougheed Town Centre
- Addtional bus service throughout the system
- maintain $ 6million in annual funding for cycling network capital
- maintain $ 20 million in annual MRN funding for muncipal project sharing
*NO, the Murray Clarke Connector is not included in this proposal !
This is the ACTUAL quote from the 'Moving Forward' plan on where the revenues will be coming from :
"The Mayor's council and the province have agreed on a funding formula for the plan that includes a 2 cent per litre increase in motor fuel taxes in April 2012 , plus , by 2013, either a property tax increase averaging about $ 23 per year for the average Metro Vancouver residential property, or a new , long-term , source of funding."
So it looks like the 'south of the fraser' contingency has only accepted funding for the Evergreen Line if the items for S.O.F are included in the package. Reading the plan, it really sounds like those items are quite vaguely defined and look like more items where translink is simply outspending the taxpayers ability to pay.
We'll see I guess - but I wonder why we are only hearing about the 2 cents ? Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting a consipiracy theory here, but, I wish they would report the entire story so that people will understand there is more here - otherwise, we will be faced with the 'outrage' when the costs start 'rising' even though they really are at these same levels.
And really, this becomes more of a shell game - there IS only one tax payer, and regardless of how you carve up this pie : I can say I will fund the Evergreen Line using fuel tax and fund the other items from property tax, or I can say it the other way around, and fund Evergreen Line from property tax and the others from the fuel tax. Makes no difference... and it seems to me that it makes more sense for the regional property taxpayer to fund the Evergreen Line than for them to be paying property tax for seabus and bus service - those things just seem a little more directly connected to fuel tax ? Maybe that's just me.... I would not be approving ANY plan right now OTHER THAN the Evergreen Line.
The Murray Clarke Connector is a long time regional priority that has been DROPPED from the plan completely - how have these other items been put the front so expeditiously ? I believe they are there to appease other parts of the region - not necessarily because they are of the highest REGIONAL importance. I would support the funding of the Evergreen Line via property tax, if needed, and that should be the limit of any funding right now - the other options should be re-examined as the MCC has been and all of them re-evaluated for regional importance and our ability to pay.
UPDATE: and wouldn't you know it, now it is being reported that Premier Clark isn't sure if funding via gas tax is a good idea ! Not sure why her minister is out negotiating if he doesn't have the authority or backing of the government ?