County Council Supports State Bills for Metro Funding, Amazon Incentives

County Council Supports State Bills for Metro Funding, Amazon Incentives

Bills would provide dedicated funding for transit system and tax incentives if tech giant chooses to locate in Montgomery County

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Montgomery County Council members on Monday indicated their support for state bills being introduced in the 2018 Maryland General Assembly that would increase capital funding for Metro and provide financial incentives for Amazon to locate its second headquarters in the county.

The Amazon bill remained draft legislation Monday as council members were discussing it because it hadn’t yet been formally submitted to the legislature.

Melanie Wenger, director of the county’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations, who handles issues between state and county government, said the proposed bill includes the tax credits and exemptions Gov. Larry Hogan detailed last week when he first pitched it.

It also includes a 10-year income tax credit for new jobs created at the headquarters; an exemption from state sales tax on construction materials and a 10-year property tax credit with the state reimbursing 50 percent of the expected property tax revenue from Amazon to the county.

Hogan pitched the tax credits as part of a $5 billion package to lure Amazon to the county—one of 20 locations the Seattle-based company is considering for its massive second North American headquarters. The governor is also pitching about $2 billion in as yet unspecified transportation upgrades as part of the package.

Council President Hans Riemer said the potential cost of the package represents “only a fraction of the increased revenues the county would get” if Amazon chose to locate in the county and employ an estimated 50,000 employees here.

“There’s no increase in [county] revenues at all if the company doesn’t come,” Riemer said.

Council member Marc Elrich said he was unclear what he and other county officials could discuss about the proposed package given confidentiality arrangements as the county and state work to attract the company while competing against other shortlisted jurisdictions. He said it wasn’t clear how much property tax revenue the county would be reimbursed for by the state.

“This is too big to not be able to talk about anything at all,” Elrich said.

Wenger replied that her office is creating fact sheets to provide more information about the incentive package.

The council also supported two proposed Metro bills. One would establish a dedicated Metro fund as part of the state’s Transportation Trust Fund that would provide an annual grant of at least $125 million to pay ongoing Metro capital costs.

Del. Marc Korman (D-Bethesda) sponsored the bill and explained to the council Monday the funding would continue in perpetuity so Metro could bond the funds to seek larger amounts of money to address urgent capital needs.

If the bill passes, it would only be implemented if Virginia and Washington, D.C., also agreed to provide similar amounts of increased capital funding to Metro.

The legislation comes as Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld has been lobbying jurisdictions serviced by the transit system to provide about $500 million in additional annual dedicated funding to make the system safe and reliable.

“There is no bigger priority for the county than Metro,” council member Roger Berliner said. “Let’s suck it up and fight for this, because if we don’t fight for this, then really shame on us.”

Gov. Larry Hogan has been open to providing about $125 million per year to Metro, although he has also asked the federal government to increase its contribution by the same amount—something lawmakers in the state view as unlikely, according to The Washington Post.

Lawmakers in Virginia and the District are currently debating proposals to provide similar amounts of annual funding to Metro.

The other Metro bill, also sponsored by Korman, would require the state’s transportation secretary to serve as a principal member of Metro’s governing board, although a designee from the transportation department could attend if the secretary can’t make a meeting. The change was proposed as a way to put a principal member with transportation expertise on the board. The other principal board member from Maryland would be appointed by the governor and would be someone from either Montgomery County or Prince George’s County.  

Maryland, Virginia, D.C. and the federal government each appoint two principal directors and two alternate directors to the board. 

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