Now if Albuquerque Representative Dan Silva gets his way we'll get to add the Rail Runner Transit District to the list. The district will have the authority to impose a gross receipts tax on the citizens of Belen, Los Lunas, Albuquerque, Bernalillo, Placitas, and Santa Fe in order to pay the $20 MILLION a year operating cost of the commuter train.
Silva told his House colleagues that if voters don't pass the tax, the state of New Mexico would have to look elsewhere— possibly to the state's road fund or general fund— to pay for the train's operations.
There are a couple of things here that bear considering. The first is that the state's road fund has already been raided to help pay for the Rail Runner. In fact, the state is close to $500 MILLION in the hole when it comes to road maintenance and repair.
Some estimates are that New Mexico is already half a billion dollars short of money for dozens of highway construction projects around the state, although state Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught said the exact figure is unknown.-ABQ Journal (Subscription)The latest estimate for the Bernalillo-Santa Fe line is $259 million. An estimate published earlier this summer put the cost at $250 million.
The preliminary costs for the Rail Runner's new crossings on the Belen to Bernalillo portion of the train's route represent an additional expense to a project already estimated to cost more than $400 million.
When you think about it it's perfectly clear, the Rail Runner has cost at least $400 MILLION (probably closer to $500 MILLION) so far and now we've got close to a $500 MILLION shortfall in our transportation budget. A recent budget panel is recommending raising the state's gas tax which currently stands at 17 cents a gallon by 6% to pay for the roads whose funding went to the Rail Runner instead. (ABQ Journal - Subscription).
The second consideration is that we were never asked whether or not we wanted this Billion Dollar Boondoggle. According to the Journal it costs taxpayers $8 MILLION a year to run the State Employee / Tourist Transit Train that's in operation from Belen to Bernalillo. That number is expected to jump to $20 MILLION a year when the $259 MILLION (for now) Santa Fe extension is complete.
Silva would like to pay for this revenue sinkhole by creating a transit district with the authority to tax and to make matters worse, the power of eminent domain. They'll be empowered take both your money and your property to run a rail road that we didn't vote for, by a quasi-governmental board that we didn't approve, for state employees that will be forced to use the system (ABQ Journal - Subscription). If that weren't enough, we'll also get to pay a higher price at the pump to pay for the road work that should have been paid for by our current gas tax but went into the Rail Runner instead.
That's just what we need... Another government bully with the authority to steal our money and a track record of raiding funds that were already allocated for other uses.