Build It and They Will Pay

State wide area transit authorities have been making headlines for their poor budgeting and planning. That means they are operating business as usual and taxpayers are going to be left holding the bill.

Last week it was Houston’s Metro taking some deserved heat for misrepresenting its budget to the feds. Metro was requesting funding for rail extension projects. Funding approval was denied because Metro does not currently have the budget bandwidth (based on revenue models)to complete the projects.

Today it is Austin’s Capital Metro being “slapped” in a report issued by the Texas Sunset Commission. Really it is taxpayers getting slapped. The commission’s report released this morning finds that the agency has mismanaged funds, overextended in planning and started projects without the necessary reserve funds to cover overages.

Reserve funds and restraint in spending currently budgeted tax dollars are foreign ideas to transit organizations. In both of these situations we have examples of build it and they will pay. Starting the project is the largest hurdle to clear. Once it is under way as is the case in Austin funding holes will be filled with increased taxes.

Major findings outlined in the report can be found in the Statesman piece by Ben Wear. More on Metro’s situation can be found at khou.com.

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