The move outraged the public and a huge political brouhaha ensued. Months later bowing to public pressure, the council pulled the extension and created a marketing, uh... "task force" to sell, uh... "study" the trolley. All of that took place almost exactly two years ago.
Now like some particularly annoying and chronic condition, the Transportation Infrastructure Tax extension is back on the radar. The original voter approved tax is set to sunset at the end of this year, which means gross receipts taxes in the City of Albuquerque would go down by 1/4 cent at the end of this year.
The Chavez Administration and some on the council would have you believe that the revenue generated by the Transportation Infrastructure Tax is critical to maintain basic transportation services. First of all the public has spoken on this tax not once, but twice - once at the ballot box and once through the public outrage that resulted in the last extension's demise.
Second, it's not as if the end of this particular source of revenue was unforeseen. Ten years ago it was included in the original legislation. Two years ago, it was extensively discussed during the Trolley fiasco. We have little sympathy for the administration's or the council's cry of poverty - particularly in light of the current economic situation.
You see the administration and the council plan to put the Transportation Infrastructure Tax on the October ballot. However, since the tax ends at the end of this year they're claiming that they'd lose approximately $18 MILLION for the first half of next year due to the way the city receives money from the State Taxation and Revenue Department. Here they assume that the extension will pass and cry us a river - they knew this was coming and should have planned for it.
More annoyingly, it appears that the city has been collecting the tax and not using it. In fact, Councilor Cadigan seems to have found some $26 MILLION in "excess" revenue.
WHEREAS, since the inception of the Transportation Infrastructure Tax, large excess balances have accumulated which could be used to provide transportation improvements City-wide as well as provide an economic stimulus to the local economy;Large excess balances?! Apparently, they've been collecting money and not using it for the projects they were directed to use the money for. In fact, the Eyes have it that Councilor Mayer has voiced concerns that the money hasn't been used properly.
So here it is... The voters voted for a tax that ends this year. They reaffirmed their position two years ago by raising hell with the council and forcing them to repeal the previous extension. The city probably isn't using the money it actually spends appropriately and they have "large excess balances" of more than $26 MILLION.
What's stunning to us is that there's actually any question how even the most whacked out big government liberal should vote. If the administration wants an extension they should put it on the ballot and make their case to the public. If it passes, they may lose $18 MILLION but thanks to their mismanagement they can cover the shortfall by using the $26 MILLION they've already collected. If it doesn't pass - which we suspect (and hope) will be the case - they spend the $26 MILLION on the projects they were supposed to spend it on in the first place and call it a day.
Two years ago, Councilor Mayer held a meeting to discuss this very issue. Just like the tax itself, history is repeating itself. The councilor is holding a meeting tonight (Thursday) at the newly remodeled Sheraton Uptown - 7 pm. She's asking for your thoughts on the 1/4 cent. She promises to have the Council Budget Director and Transit Director, Greg Payne. If nothing else, it should be a lively meeting since our Eyes tell us that at least a few disgruntled taxpayers plan to attend.