House Speaker David Ralston: MARTA will have to wait

As mentioned this morning, Republican lawmakers are contemplating a quick transportation funding bill that doesn’t adhere to guidelines established in Gov. Sonny Perdue’s HB 1218.

But a hard-won provision in the governor’s transportation bill was a termporary lifting of the state requirement that MARTA equally divide its sales-tax revenue between capital and operating expenses.

MARTA official have described the flexibility as crucial to the transit agency’s operation in the current economy.

Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM) has posted the second part of an audio interview with House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge).

The speaker drops few clues on what a passable transportation bill might look like. But this exchange doesn’t bode well for the transit agency:

O’Hayer:Can MARTA survive another year without a transportation plan that includes some loosening of the restrictions that it faces on how it spends the tax revenue it gets?

Ralston: I’ve been trying to understand how MARTA got in the problem they’re in. I think that we have to have a better understanding of what brought us to this point before we know how to get out of the problem.

O’Hayer: One thing that advocates say is, MARTA has had very little, if any, support from the state for years. Most major regional transportation systems have that from their states.

Ralston: I’m not sure MARTA has ever had very much support from the state. It was never designed to be state-supported. It’s an important part of a large transportation infrastructure in Georgia. But I think before we have any kind of serious discussion about how we right the ship, we need to find out how we got into the storm.

O’Hayer: Is there time for that?

Ralston: Probably not this session. I mean, that’s going to have to be an extended discussion looking at all the things I’ve mentioned. And I think that would be a discussion that would take a lot of time. More than 40 days.

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91 comments Add your comment

Base

April 13th, 2010
3:13 pm

The do nothing legislature and Ralston just kick the can down the road.

Yancy B

April 13th, 2010
3:24 pm

Ignorance is definitely not in short supply in the Ga Legislature! This guy is a nightmare and to think he some how has somebody who votes for him is unreal!

Daedalus

April 13th, 2010
3:25 pm

Let’s see, Ralston cannot figure out how MARTA, which relies on sales tax revenue for a significant part of its budget, “got into the problem they are in”, when the State of Georgia, which also relies on sales tax revenue for a significant part of its budget, is also in poor financial shape because of (drumroll please)declining sales tax revenues as a result of a long recession.

Boy, this guy isn’t very smart, is he?

But he lives in Blue Ridge, he’s a Repubican, and he doesn’t give a crap about Atlanta. I guess he doesn’t realize that MARTA is not asking for help from the state, they are asking for relief from an arbitrary 50/50 law that Lester Maddox required back in the late 60’s. It was an arbitrary rule then and its still arbitrary today.

Enjoy your car!

Yancy B

April 13th, 2010
3:26 pm

Enter your comments here

Yancy B

April 13th, 2010
3:27 pm

This man undoubtedly was on the short bus in elementary, middle school and high school and we can safely assume he has never seen the inside of a college or university.

Bill Campbell

April 13th, 2010
3:27 pm

I agree that throwing money at Marta won’t solve the problem, it will just facilitate wasting it faster. Marta has serious systemic problems. The train stations are dirty and poorly maintained yet somehow they have enough people to stand around and watch the escalators? Can’t someone pick up a mop? The escalators, first promised to be repaired by mid March are still largely not working and there is no end in sight. The Peachtree center station has one working escalator and the elevator is also out of order. The one escalator bank leading into peachtree center has been out of service for 3 weeks and shows no signs of getting back into operation – and no signs posted for when we can expect them back in service.

Cutty

April 13th, 2010
3:29 pm

Billy Campbell- Wouldn’t more sales tax revenue alleviate most of the problems you describe?

TN Stone

April 13th, 2010
3:30 pm

I need to move to Charlotte. I’m over this town. There are way too many deep issues here to ever get anything accomplished.

MC

April 13th, 2010
3:30 pm

Be honest – MARTA is a poorly run entity like all the other Atlanta based organizations e.g. water, sewer, fire, police….should I continue ? I say shut it down. It’s a train/bus that crosses many bridges to nowhere.

Grimace

April 13th, 2010
3:31 pm

What have they been doing since last year when they gave Marta the finger? Meanwhile, GRTA gets its state $.

RetiredSoldier

April 13th, 2010
3:34 pm

Let’s see if I understand the previous posts. Even though I don’t live or work in Atlanta and never use MARTA when I come to Atlanta I’m supposed to use my money to keep MARTA afloat. In addition, if I don’t agree with you I am either dumb, not intelligent or a member of the flat earth society.

Give me a break, when is your tax money coming to my town to pay for things/activities you will never use. Get the point?

BPJ

April 13th, 2010
3:42 pm

Here’s an alternate headline for the article: GEORGIA REPUBLICANS TO METRO ATLANTA: DROP DEAD!

Watcher

April 13th, 2010
3:42 pm

I agree with “MC” and “Retired Soldier”

Sean Ingram

April 13th, 2010
3:43 pm

Did you guys hear about an incident about a month or so gone by that concerned MARTA paying its outside bus maintenance contractors about $250 dollars per hour to do some weekend work on their buses that ended up costing them about $6000 dollars when everything was finished. Beverly Scott was extremely upset as was the regular mechanics who were only being paid about $25 dollars per hour but given such a nonchalant/ spendthrift mentality I’m surprised that such an embarrassing story even got out because if they’re paying $6000 to maintain their buses imagine what other abuses have happened behind the scenes.

Grimace

April 13th, 2010
3:45 pm

Retired Soldier and Watcher- I don’t have any kids but my money goes to fund Cobb county schools. So whats your point?

Me

April 13th, 2010
3:46 pm

Let MARTA do what it wants to do. Why does someone from Blue Ridge care what they do with their money? Unless the state is going to give MARTA money, they should get out of running it.

JJ

April 13th, 2010
3:46 pm

A lot of the metro area tax money goes out of the metro area to support project that members of the metro area will never use. I think you just nailed the problem, the metro subsidizes the rest of GA.

Me

April 13th, 2010
3:47 pm

RetiredSoldier, when I come to your town, the sales tax money I pay will be going to pay for stuff I never use.

Brian

April 13th, 2010
3:49 pm

once again we skate on the thin ice of being proclaimed bigots if we dare speak of the ineptitude of the powers that be in Atlanta.

Yancy B

April 13th, 2010
3:49 pm

This guy is obviously a hillbilly and he needs to stick to milking cows and cleaning out his barn and shoveling his manure.

Tony

April 13th, 2010
3:51 pm

MARTA operates on taxes provided by Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb counties only. We should be able to spend those funds without the state’s 50/50 restrictions. When the state pitches in like it does for other transportation in this state, then it can mandate the funding structure.

Base

April 13th, 2010
3:53 pm

Why does GRTA get state money for express buses and high salaries.

Richard

April 13th, 2010
3:55 pm

Maybe,if MARTA Baord would a accept a salary cut but.I, hope MARTA gets put under the State and GET RID of CEO Scott & the Board.But,there is NO money anyway

RetiredSoldier

April 13th, 2010
3:59 pm

Me-

When I come to Atlanta my sales tax goes to you in Atlanta.

Grimance-

Your beef then is with your school board. Why add to the problem?

Mr. Holmes

April 13th, 2010
4:08 pm

This problem (Atlanta vs. the rest of the state) has been around for 150 years, and I seriously doubt David Ralston has the wattage to solve it.

John

April 13th, 2010
4:13 pm

Retired Soldier and Watcher – They are not asking for state money, they want to be able to drop the outdated 50/50 rule and spend money they already have. BTW.. road and gas taxes don’t pay for the complete cost of roads.. most of the money comes from the general fund. We all pay for it whether or not we use it..

Tax bibles

April 13th, 2010
4:13 pm

Have any of you idiots ever looked at the composition of the MARTA board; not just now, but over the last 20 or 30 years? Lots of people with no real business experience, but GREAT civil rights credentials.

That’s how MARTA got where it is, dummies!

T-Bone

April 13th, 2010
4:15 pm

There are plenty of folks who never have children, yet they have a tax obligation to pay for schools. Or, maybe they never walk into a library or are able-bodied enough to avoid using the handicap ramp to get into the building. No one objects to paying for these because schools and libraries make a community better for all its citizens. All of these things are paid for all taxpayers, regardless of whether they use the services.

MARTA serves a huge working population in the largest city in the state of Georgia. Failing to keep MARTA afloat will have tremendous secondary and tertiary effects on both riding and non-riding Georgians. The “I don’t use it, so why should I pay for it” argument doesn’t hold water.

Steve

April 13th, 2010
4:15 pm

Ralston and these Republicans should have learned a good lesson from General Sherman. If you let Atlanta burn to the ground there’s not much left in Georgia. It’s amazing the Democrats are killing our Federal Government and the Republicans are killing the state. Why don’t we let everyone Home school their kids and we could get everyone a tax break. But again we elected this bush of attorneys and accountant we should have know they would kill the goose that laid the golden eggs. Wake-Up Georgia we are going backward fast our kids are near the bottom in education our roads are crumbling and all Sonny and Republican can think about is Fish ponds and Horse parks.

PirateOnPtree

April 13th, 2010
4:20 pm

So all the white folks who don’t live in the city don’t mind seeing MARTA go. Shocker. If any of you weren’t fortunate enough to be able to afford a car and an education and actually *relied* on public transit, you’d be screaming bloody murder.

MARTA does not exist for the rednecks and soccer moms in the rest of the state. It serves Atlanta residents who don’t have or choose not to drive a car on a daily basis.

I’m a spoiled white college student and even I can see that whats going on here is racism.

Zinc

April 13th, 2010
4:23 pm

@Retired Soldier Maybe you should look into the where the state revenues come from. A large majority of revenues are from Atlanta and allocated outside the city limits. So whether you want to accept it or not, I am subsidizing many things in YOUR community.

RetiredSoldier

April 13th, 2010
4:24 pm

Hey Steve-

Where were our schools before Sonny? Yep just about where they are now. That’s not to excuse them, but the Dems didn’t do any better.

Sgt. At Arms

April 13th, 2010
4:25 pm

We’ve been waiting 8 years for transportation fixes. My neighbor’s once middle schoolers are done with high school now. How much longer?

RetiredSoldier

April 13th, 2010
4:27 pm

Zinc-

I’ll take your challenge, direct to the source of your information and I’ll check the revnues collected from my county and the state money spent here. What’s your source?

Eric P.

April 13th, 2010
4:27 pm

Tax bibles. Actually not true. But dont let that get in the way.

henry Grady

April 13th, 2010
4:29 pm

We need to make Metro Atlanta into its own state and leave the rest of GA to its own devices. That’s a GOP argument, right? It’d be like forming Milton County…we generate all the tax revenue and I’m kind of tired of (a) sharing and (b) listening to the same folks that suck all of our tax revenue bee-atch about funding necessary things for metro Atlanta like Marta and commuter rail.

Eric P.

April 13th, 2010
4:29 pm

Retired Soldier. Why dont you look it up? You brought it up. What was your source?

Road Scholar

April 13th, 2010
4:32 pm

What leadership! I guess a strick ethics bill will get kicked down the road also!?

atlin83

April 13th, 2010
4:35 pm

Bill Campbell – try reading the paper, watching the news, or God forbid looking at MARTA’s website. The escalators are being put back into service after MARTA identified that a contractor was working unsafely, fired the contractor, and shut them all down to have the work double-checked by a qualified vendor. They stated it could take months at the beginning, and it is.

MC – Over half a million people per day don’t ride a train/bus to nowhere. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

RetiredSoldier – the Atlanta region’s tax money disproportionately comes to your town to pay for things/activities I will never use. Get the point?

Watcher – see the above. At least you didn’t contribute useless, inaccurate misinformation of your own.

Sean Ingram – that sounds like rumor; that story didn’t run in the AJC, the daily news, the free weeklies, or even any of the other Atlanta yellow journals.

Brian – who proclaimed you a bigot? If you say that black people don’t run things well, you’re a bigot, but I haven’t seen anyone say or respond to that here. Jumpy much?

Richard – The MARTA Board isn’t paid. They’re appointed.

Tax bibles – you’re clueless. The MARTA Board has been rife with political appointees that have business experience. Maybe not transit experience, but definitely business experience. Some early Board members had civil rights credentials, which was useful in the 60s and 70s when trying to bridge racial gaps in building a major project in Atlanta.

Everyone – MARTA’s asking for the legislature to lift the 50/50 split. No more funds from anyone, anywhere are required to do that. The legislature, in removing the lift from Purdue’s proposal, has actually made a concerted effort to hurt MARTA for absolutely no gain. Keep that in mind. More money is needed to expand service and make the system better, but the 50/50 requires nothing but words.

And for anyone questioning, MARTA consistently ranks as one of the most effective, most efficient transit systems of any in the nation, and at the top of the Southeast. Try researching. It’ll make your little blog posts more convincing.

Atlanta resident

April 13th, 2010
4:37 pm

RetiredSoldier-

MARTA, and transit in general, is a large factor in Atlanta’s ability to attract new businesses, tourists, conventions, etc. It doesn’t behoove a lot of people to sit on the Connector for hours on end, shockingly enough. Not to mention transit’s effect on Atlanta’s international airport.

Now, you’re right. Atlanta isn’t where you live, or where many Georgians live. Excellent point! However, Atlanta is THE economic powerhouse in this state; a down Atlanta means a very very down Georgia. There’s only so many automotive plants and brush farms with the ability to sustain economic growth in the state. Georgia *needs* a healthy Atlanta, and a healthy Atlanta *needs* a viable transit system. Sorry, but them’s the breaks. If you want a Georgia without Atlanta, move to Mississippi, and there ya go.

Atlanta resident

April 13th, 2010
4:39 pm

And yeah, MARTA is lean, efficiently run, and has stations that are pretty much the gold standard in cleanliness for public transit around the nation.

Glidecr

April 13th, 2010
4:42 pm

Retired Soldier,
Where the heck do you think 1/3 or more of your town’s state support comes from? Thin air? It is common knowledge AND FACT that metro Atlanta, by far, economically supports the remainder of the state. Metro Atlanta receives far less in state tax benefits than it pays.
It is not politically popular for the politicians from your town, or any non-Metro town, to state this fact. But, logic would dictate: if we continue to kill the state’s economic engine, then the rest of the state is going to suffer, right along with Metro-Atlanta. The state needs to show the love, and stop pounding on MARTA for inefficiencies and graft that occurred years ago.

In addition, this legislation is strictly about letting MARTA temporarily use more of its funds for operating expenses than 50% limit. These are extraordinary times.

Angus

April 13th, 2010
4:44 pm

Georgia revenues vs. expenditures: An analysis of geographic distribution.
http://aysps.gsu.edu/frc/files/Brief_188.pdf
Page 3 sums it up. The Metro10 (the ten counties in the ARC) provide 51% of Georgia’s revenue but only receives 37% of expenditures.

Per MARTA, on its cost effectiveness:
http://preview.itsmarta.com/uploadedFiles/News_And_Events/Public_Hearings_and_Meetings/Effectiveness%20and%20Efficiency%20Brochure.pdf

Yancy B

April 13th, 2010
4:44 pm

Atlanta Resident,
Well said and thanks.

Pompano

April 13th, 2010
4:44 pm

People forget that the 50/50 rule was put in place primarily to prevent the Unions from raiding the MARTA coffers. Remove this restriction and watch MARTA’s payroll skyrocket.

MARTA management has duped you all into believing this is some magic fix.

Sen. Beauregard Q. Jefferson, (R-Bugtussle)

April 13th, 2010
4:46 pm

Well ah say, ah say, this here MARTUH don’t be deservin’ any of my con-stit-you-en-see’s hard-earn-ed munnay, ah tell you that much. We doin’ jes fine on our lonesum!

David S

April 13th, 2010
4:49 pm

So-called public transportation is not sustainable with taking from others. The others have been fed upon by the parasites long enough and have no more to give.

When C-Tran failed, as it inevitably would, private businesses began stepping in and filling the void. There is nothing that govnernment does that the private sector cannot do better.

Amazed

April 13th, 2010
4:51 pm

Let’s get this straight. GA is the only state in the country that doesn’t give any financial support to a major transit system within its state, yet wants to tell MARTA how to divide the sales tax revenues it receives only from Fulton and Dekalb counties. We have the House Speaker from Blue Ridge saying he doesn’t know how MARTA got in the financial position it’s in (down economy, declining tax revenues), when the state is in the same position. What type of inept leadership do we have here in GA?!?

RetiredSoldier

April 13th, 2010
4:54 pm

Thanks Angus

Atlanta resident

April 13th, 2010
5:03 pm

“So-called public transportation is not sustainable with taking from others.”

It’s a tax for a public good. So-called public roads are not sustainable without taking from others, either.

“The others have been fed upon by the parasites long enough and have no more to give.”

“Parasites” apparently = Atlanta businessmen, international corporations, the tourist industry, and various people and groups who pump billions and billions of dollars into Georgia’s economy. Oh, and also the people who live in Atlanta, myself included. How, exactly, are we parasites?

“When C-Tran failed, as it inevitably would, private businesses began stepping in and filling the void.”

Except the void is *hardly* filled. A few vans and a taxi or two do not equal an entire transit infrastructure.