Google Ads help pay the expense of maintaining this site

Click Here for the Neighborhood Transformation Website

Fair Use Disclaimer

Neighborhood Transformation is a nonprofit, noncommercial website that, at times, may contain copyrighted material that have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It makes such material available in its efforts to advance the understanding of poverty and low income distressed neighborhoods in hopes of helping to find solutions for those problems. It believes that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. Persons wishing to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of their own that go beyond 'fair use' must first obtain permission from the copyright owner.
Miami Herald 1/22/02

Funding plan for transit project in works -Proposal may call for `penny tax'

By Karl Ross

Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, in a likely precursor to another ``penny-tax'' vote this fall, is crafting a plan to finance billions in mass-transit projects over the next 25 years.

Since October, Barreiro -- who chairs the county commission's transportation, infrastructure and environment committee -- has been piecing together a funding proposal similar to the failed 1999 penny-transit tax.

That proposal, defeated in July 1999 by a 2-1 margin, called for a one-cent sales tax and would have secured the ``dedicated funding source'' the county needs to be eligible each year for tens of millions of dollars or more in federal matching funds.

Barreiro's top legislative aide, Alfredo González, said his boss hopes to bring a draft proposal before the commission Feb. 12.

``He wants to be able to get back to his colleagues on the commission and get them to acknowledge at least that there is a need [for the tax] and to get them to support a referendum for some kind of dedicated funding source in the fall,'' González said. ``That's the only chance we have to get in on the next federal funding cycle.''

González said that a funding source needs to be created by the end of the calendar year in order to meet the deadline for the next five-year funding cycle for light-rail and other capital-intensive transit projects.

It is not yet clear whether Barreiro's proposal will mesh with a similar one being hatched by Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas' office. Penelas was the architect of the penny-tax proposal that was rejected by voters amid outcry over higher taxes and misspending of public funds.

``The mayor's going after a half-penny tax,'' González said. ``His people up on the 29th floor [of County Hall] are all gung-ho about that.''

Penelas recently acknowledged that he intends to mount another campaign to secure a transit tax, but is waiting until his state of the county address in early February to release details.

According to a memorandum prepared by the county manager's office, a half-penny sales tax would yield $95 million yearly in revenues. By contrast, a full penny tax would generate $191 million yearly.

Federal funding rules for costly transit projects such as a Metrorail expansion require a local match of between 20 percent and 50 percent.

While a sales tax is not the only possible funding source, other options -- such as raising property taxes -- are even more politically unpalatable.

While it remains sketchy, Barreiro's plan entails levying the penny tax over 25 years, at which time a ``sunset provision'' ending the tax would kick in, González said.

González said the $112 million a year the county is presently allocating for public transportation from its general fund would be placed into a trust fund. After 25 years, the money would be tapped to subsidize free public transportation, he said.

One of the reasons Penelas' proposal attracted criticism was because the county's annual operating subsidy would have been divvied up among arts groups and others who helped raise money for the ``Transit Not Tolls'' campaign.

González said Barreiro is aware the penny sales tax could be a hard-sell at the polls. Similar initiatives have been rejected by voters on five occasions since 1976.