LowT Gimenez's Transit troubles; Miami Herald reports: "after years of broken promises" ....

BY DOUGLAS HANKS


LowT Gimenez's Transit troubles;

Miami Herald reports: "after years of broken promises" ....


There’s an escalating battle underway to force Miami-Dade to spend transportation taxes on big projects and stop subsidizing everyday expenses tied to running Metrorail and one of the largest bus fleets in the country.
The battle around one of the rawest subjects of Miami-Dade’s transit fight is being waged on multiple fronts — in Tallahassee, in the courts, and within the county bureaucracy.
Two lawmakers representing Miami-Dade in Tallahassee have bills that would ban any of the county’s operating costs from being paid out of the more than $250 million collected each yearfrom a half-percent sales tax dedicated to transportation.
That’s a far stricter rule than was imposed in 2002 when countywide voters approved the “half-penny” tax to expand Metrorail, buy hundreds of new buses and then cover the added operating expenses that come with new transit lines. Metrorail has grown by a single stop in the 17 years that followed, and the bus fleet has grown by fewer than 75 vehicles.




Next week, county commissioners will consider a demand by a Miami-Dade oversight board to cease spending the transportation tax on routine operations by Oct. 1 — a historic showdown, since the board overseeing the tax has never attempted to undo commission action before.
On Thursday, a judge kept alive a lawsuit by a Coral Gables commissioner demanding an immediate halt to spending nearly $100 million in tax proceeds on operational support for the county’s $590 million transit budget.
“The county failed in its promises to deliver on the half-penny promises,” said Vince Lago, the city commissioner now suing Miami-Dade in Circuit Court. “It’s easy to raid the half-penny instead of finding ways to balance our budget.”
The assaults on Miami-Dade’s current spending plan for transit have been met with promises that the county is on the verge of reimposing the original limits on how the transportation tax could be spent. County commissioners lifted the rules in a controversial 2009 vote, and the changes were endorsed by the transportation board that year, too.
In a Circuit Court hearing Thursday, a county lawyer argued to a judge that commissioners followed the proper procedures in their 2009 rewrite of the projects eligible for a tax that has generated about $2.7 billion since 2002.
Commissioners “followed to a T exactly what the ordinance called for, and amended the list of projects to include the operation and maintenance of the existing transit system,” Miami-Dade lawyer Bruce Libhaber told Judge Spencer Eig during the hearing on the county’s motion to dismiss Lago’s suit.
Eig denied the motion hours later in a brief opinion, allowing the case to proceed to a trial.
The 2009 vote added an amendment to the original “People’s Transportation Plan” presented to voters, which restricted the tax to operation and maintenance bills created by new transit routes and systems. The 2009 amendment declared “any” transit expenses eligible for the tax.

Continue reading from the Miami HERALD: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article226864084.html

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