Updated – 3:25 p.m. – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan wrote in a letter Monday that he would budget $500 million in additional state funds over the next four years to help fund Metro’s improvement program.
Hogan sent the letter to Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Hogan offered to put forth Maryland money if D.C., Virginia and the federal government all fund that same amount over the next four years.
The move comes two weeks after Hogan reportedly told Bowser and McAuliffe the state couldn’t afford to pump more money into Metro and cast doubt on whether Montgomery and Prince George’s counties would be willing to raise taxes on themselves to do so, according to The Washington Post.
Hogan wrote in his letter that if the three jurisdictions come together to commit funding, it will encourage the federal government to chip in $500 million, as well.
Hogan dismissed the regional sales tax proposal, floated by Bowser and other D.C. officials, that’s designed to provide a dedicated funding source for Metro. The proposal to increase local sales taxes by 1 cent would place a greater share of the tax burden on the more populous jurisdictions in Northern Virginia and Maryland than the District would have.
Hogan wrote that the sales tax proposal “has no real chance of being implemented anytime in the foreseeable future.”
“The sales tax is a regressive tax, which disproportionately hurts the poorest of our citizens,” Hogan wrote.
Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner said during a press briefing Monday that Hogan’s commitment to fund Metro with state funds is a “very positive development.”
He said the governor’s proposal prevents county leaders in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties from having to consider raising taxes to deal with Metro’s problems.
Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has been urging Maryland, D.C. and Virginia to set up dedicated funding to generate $500 million per year to enable the transit operator to maintain and upgrade its aging system. Metro has experienced declining ridership and periodic safety problems over the past three years.
On “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” on WAMU on Monday, Wiedefeld said he’d be open to accepting the $2 billion from the three jurisdictions and the federal government if the four entities can reach an agreement to contribute $500 million each.
Berliner, the past president of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which reviews regional transportation issues, said he did not know if Virginia, D.C. or the federal government would contribute the same amount as Maryland. However, he commended the governor for putting a proposal forth to begin further negotiations over Metro funding.
“I feel like he’s played a card that we should take seriously and I think the region will take it seriously,” Berliner said.
Berliner added that he believes Hogan has developed a good relationship with Elaine Chao, the U.S. secretary of transportation. Last month, Chao and Hogan signed the $900 million federal grant agreement for the Purple Line light-rail project, which began construction shortly after the agreement was signed.
In his letter, Hogan wrote that agreement “offers proof that the current administration is more than willing to make prudent investments in transit projects with partners that are equally invested and willing to pull their weight.”
There are signs McAuliffe may also be open to the proposal:
Just spoke to Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne – says McAuliffe admin is open to such interim steps as Hogan’s proposal today.
— Martin Di Caro (@MartinDiCaro) September 11, 2017
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said Hogan had ruled out asking Montgomery and Prince George’s counties to raise taxes to help fund Metro. However, the governor had previously doubted whether the counties would be willing to raise taxes on themselves. While he still believes this, according to his office, he has not ruled it out.