“We’re going all in and fully funding Metro for our future,” declared Mayor Muriel Bowser enthusiastically on Thursday evening, March 15, in the first moments of her State of the District address at the University of the District of Columbia. In a don’t-mess-with-me tone of voice, she added: “I’m proud that I’m the mayor and this is the government that will get it done.”
The mayor can be forgiven for her assertiveness. What looked like a done deal, a historic commitment between two states — Maryland and Virginia — and the District to permanently fund the transit system’s operations, maintenance and safety procedures, suddenly looked wobbly at the start of the week.
District Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and five Council members had reversed their backing of the proportional funding plan worked out by the mayor and Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, who chairs the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board. That formula committed D.C. to contributing $178.5 million a year; Maryland and Virginia — with larger ridership and a much bigger tax base — were each to put in $167 million a year.
“It should be equal,” the Mendelson faction demanded.
But Bowser pointed out that D.C. had far more Metro stations than did the two states. And if the Council did not allocate its share in accordance with the plan, then Virginia could, by law, negate its commitment.
Evans said he agreed that, ideally, funding should be equal. But it was too late. “We have passed that point,” he said.
Hence, the mayor’s declaration at what D.C. calls the SOD: “We’re going all in!”