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Metro 2012 General Mobility Program Referendum

Metro is holding a referendum in November on whether to continue its general mobility payments -- and voter confusion could be the decider.

When Metro was formed, it was given the power to collect a one-cent sales tax. In the early years, the one-cent sales tax generated far more than Metro needed. As a result, Metro agreed to rebate about 25 percent of its sales tax collection to the city, county and 14 small cities in its service area. The general idea was that the county and the cities would use the money for road, bridge, sidewalk and other non-transit (i.e. "general mobility") projects in their jurisdictions. The issue on the November ballot will be whether to continue rebating a portion of Metro’s sales tax revenues to local governments for general mobility projects.

If the referendum passes, Metro would continue rebating money for roads, but would keep more of the cash for transit than under the current funding formula.  Metro's share of the overall sales tax revenues would increase from 75 percent today to a projected 81 percent in 2025, netting an extra $400 million that otherwise would have gone to road construction and maintenance under the current formula. As demanded by county officials, Metro must spend that cash on buses, bus shelters, and to pay down debt – but not for rail.

However, in an odd twist, a no vote to reject the Metro proposal in November would actually allow Metro to keep all of the sales taxes it collects.  If Houston were to lose its general mobility payments, it would blow a huge hole in an already tough budget. Several of the smaller cities in the Metro service area have said that if they lose the payments, their residents will face significant tax increases.

 

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Willow Meadows Civic Club
P.O. Box 35551
Houston, Texas 77235