By Maria Saporta
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed is disappointed that MARTA did not get the legislative assistance it needs during the 2012 General Assembly.
But he is not giving up by any means that the situation can be resolved in 2013.
MARTA had sought to permanently remove a state restriction that requires that half of its sales tax revenues go to operations and half goes to capital investments. The state had waived the 50/50 rule for three years, but that time frame runs out on June 30, 2013.
During the closing minutes of the 2012 legislature, a bill that would have extended the flexibility by another three years failed largely because Democratic legislators were trying to hold out for a permanent removal.
It is widely felt that if and when a bill to permanently remove the restriction failed, there would have been widespread consensus to give MARTA an additional three-year waiver. But the MARTA bill was introduced so late in the game that there was not enough time for the politics to play themselves out.
That has left MARTA in a difficult spot where it will have to prepare its 2013/2014 budget without having flexibility in the 50/50 rule.
“I think that the decision not to pass the three-year extension for MARTA was a very poor decision, and I think a lot of people are going to suffer in a variety of ways,” Reed said in a brief interview. “We have got to work through it. MARTA has a short-term funding problem. It’s important that we continue to talk and not play the game of blame.”
Reed, who served in the Georgia Legislature as both a representative and a senator, has strong ties at the State Capitol.
“I believe that the leadership is always willing to help to any extent they can,” Reed said. “ We need to make sure we continue to talk and not walk away. We need to continue to nurture the relationship with the legislature.”
At the same time, Reed added: “We need to make sure we don’t have significant reductions in (MARTA) service.”
MARTA currently is exploring all its options to figure out what it needs to do before the 2013 legislative session and make sure there’s not a repeat of 2012.
“I think we need to be clear,” Reed said. “There was a workable solution.”
Reed is a fascinating politician to watch when it comes to maneuvering around state and local as well as party politics.
“I practice the politics of pragmatism,” Reed said. “I think folks at the legislature are being very thoughtful. You are going to have a good amount of cooperation. At the end of the day, the legislature is about getting a deal done.”
Lastly, Reed was asked if he also was disappointed that there was no bill for regional transit governance. But Reed had opposed a bill that had been proposed by a legislative task force that would have given the ultimate power to the state over regional transit decisions.
That bill did not sit well among many in the region because the state has not financially supported MARTA’s operations, and it has not been a major investor in any transit in the state.
All Reed would say was: “I’m not in favor of transit governance at any cost.”