by Jeff Taylor
Really not much to add to Richard Rubin’s look at the arts-transit-car rental tax scam. Whole thing is a must-read, the high points:
For years, the three-sentence party line from city government has been this:
1. Transit money is transit money, locked away by state law from the rest of the budget.
2. Road money is road money, generated from property and sales taxes and constantly squeezed by the need for firefighters and police officers.
3. The two can’t be mingled.
But it turns out that the transit lockbox isn’t so secure after all. Charlotte is preparing to crack it open, pluck out some money for uptown museums, and then replenish the transit fund from another pocket.
What? Is that possible?
Many readers probably think all the money for the Charlotte Area Transit System comes from the half-cent sales tax that voters approved in 1998. Not true. That tax will generate $62.7 million in 2006-07, but that’s less than 60 percent of the CATS budget. …
The City Council turned to the idea of raising the rental-car tax to pay for the museums, and the state Senate recently passed a bill to increase the tax. But the bill is not simply a new tax for new projects.
It gives Charlotte an additional rental-car tax that goes directly into the transit fund.
Then, the bill lets Charlotte reduce the amount of general tax money it puts into transit, up to $7.5 million per year. Even though the city plans to spend that freed-up money on arts, the bill allows it to be used for anything.
Republican City councilman John Lassiter said the city’s pitch to legislators was based on the benefits of the arts projects, including state tax revenue and high-paying bank jobs.
Whew. Can you believe these people? Where to start?
How about the Uptown crowd telling Raleigh that Wachovia will up and leave if it does not get its arts complex. Is that true? Has the connection been made between property taxes funding Uptown projects or else Charlotte’s bankers pitch a fit? Why the little loafer-wearing terrorists.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends and neighbors, on many occasions I’ve raised the issue, in both public and private, of the banks running Charlotte’s arts scene as an arm of their HR departments and basically been told I’m nuts for my trouble.
“That just is not so,” comes the refrain, “Why Charlotte’s arts offerings and the Arts and Sciences Council are for everyone.”
Well, the truth is out. Pay up and make sure the wives have someplace to rattle their jewelry and premiere their Botox injections or we’re outta here.
The only thing that Richard does not touch on is the issue of CATS getting another dedicated revenue stream without any public vote. This money will undoubtedly be used to float at least $100 million in bonds a year so CATS can build its choo-choo dreams now that federal funding for dubious rail projects is sketchy. Who — exactly — voted for that?
Who — exactly — matters in Charlotte? Now. We. Know.