by Michael Lowrey
The Charlotte City Council is now back to discussing its capital plan, with Mayor Anthony Foxx and City Manager Curt Walton thinking city residents are underataxed. Their proposed solution to all that ails the city is to essentially double down on existing policy. Charlotte’s failings in their view, you see, is that despite already having the highest local government in the state for any city with a population of 25,000+ is that we as community haven’t built enough stuff. The city needs more of your money so that economically it can keep up with communities like those in the Triangle that tax its citizens less than we here in Charlotte/Meckelnburg do.
And at the core of the debate is the city’s proposed street car line.
Let’s be clear here: The idea of covering the construction costs and operating losses of a transit line outside of the framework of the county-wide dedicated sales tax for transit is simply an absurd piece of public policy. There’s no way to hide that this is nothing more than a piece of pork for a favored constituency as a reward for keeping the transit tax in place.
It’s unclear why the city needs more rail lines now given that the existing Blue Line hasn’t exactly revitalized South Boulevard and work will soon begin on an extension to UNC-Charlotte.
While there are some local politicians who see the danger that a high cost of government presents, as many don’t consider this to be a serious issue. Which is scary indeed.
Bonus observation: Some of the ideas being thrown around to limit the size of a property tax increase to fund the street car line are every bit as bad — if not worse — than simple funding it through property taxes. In particular, using TIFs would be risky move that would almost certainly create the need for additional tax increases down the road even if itby some miracle it draws new development near the street car line.