MARTOC’s Jacobs looking at ways to help MARTA, supports transportation bill

By Maria Saporta

It is essential for metro Atlanta to pass the regional transportation funding bill in August, 2012, according to Georgia Rep. Mike Jacobs, who is the new chair of the legislature’s MARTA Oversight Committee (MARTOC).

“It’s a critical time for transportation in the state,” Jacobs told people attending the Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable Friday morning. “It’s a good bill, and it’s a workable bill.”

Jacobs was asked, however, how he reconciles his views on passing a regional penny sales tax with his MARTOC role, when the funding bill prohibits any of the new revenue being able to go towards covering MARTA’s existing operations. He also was asked about the political implications of whether the tax could pass in Fulton and DeKalb counties given the restriction against MARTA.

“I acknowledge it’s an issue that needs to be addressed,” Jacobs said about sustainable funding for MARTA. “I’m a DeKalb County legislator who rides MARTA and pays the MARTA penny every time I go to the store,” Jacobs said. “I would love more participation (from surrounding counties) to take off the shoulders of Atlanta, Fulton and DeKalb.”

But Jacobs believed those issues could be addressed outside of the regional sales tax referendum. The two areas where the state can help improve MARTA’s financial stability are in reviewing and revising the existing MARTA Act and by addressing regional transit governance.

“We need to sustain MARTA,” Jacobs said. “It is an important regional asset. I recognize that, and the speaker (David Ralston) recognizes that, which is why I’m in that job.”

Later Jacobs mentioned that some options included permanently removing the restriction that MARTA has to spend 50 percent of its existing penny sales tax on capital and 50 percent on operations. Having greater flexibility on how it spends its existing penny would help.

Also, Jacobs said the MARTA Act could be revised to allow the transit agency to sell its maintenance services to other agencies and have that become a new source of MARTA revenue.

Also on the panel at the SART meeting, which is a first Friday morning gathering of people interested in environmental issues, was state Sen. Jason Carter (D-DeKalb).

“As a representative of Atlanta and DeKalb…, from a politics standpoint, most people in those areas are going to have to see action on MARTA before they support an action on the regional T-SPLOST,“ Carter said.

But later Carter said he welcomed the leadership of Jacobs as the new chair of MARTOC. The former chair, Rep. Jill Chambers (R-DeKalb), had used that position to constantly berate MARTA. She was defeated in November.

“At the state level, the treatment of MARTA has been so bad for so long,” Carter said. The new chair of the MARTA Oversight Committee is a breath of fresh air. We have great leadership in that position now.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

7 replies
  1. David says:

    Imagine that– someone who is actually friendly to MARTA leading the oversight committee…
    This is very good news for everyone– here’s hoping for a true regional transit system for this metro area now approoaching 6 million people…Report

  2. Doug says:

    Often there is talk of loosening the rule that says 50% must go to capital. Does MARTA have a surplus of money in this capital account? If not, wouldn’t giving such flexibility be robbing Peter to pay Paul?Report

  3. Burroughston Broch says:

    Transferring funds out of the capital account into the operating account would have two effects, one immediate and one longer term. The immediate effect would be a rash of salary increases, bonuses and new hires. The longer term effect would be insufficient funds in the capital account to pay for replacing/upgrading capital equipment, leading to a call for a tax increase.Report

  4. Rep. Mike Jacobs says:

    Here was my point: I am willing to explore a repeal of the 50-50 split — which is a relatively crude fiscal control — and explore more specific fiscal controls to replace it, such as specific limitations on “salary increases, bonuses and new hires.” My plan is to appoint a subcommittee of MARTOC to undertake a thorough review of the 1960s MARTA Act. Any changes to the MARTA Act will be proposed with an eye toward delivering better value for taxpayers and better service for riders. This mantra — “better value for taxpayers, better service for riders” — will be a mission statement for MARTOC as we move forward. Thank you, Maria, for your coverage of yesterday’s event.Report

  5. Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights..... says:

    Sorry, but in it’s current form, MARTA is NOT smarta! The entire political situation surrounding MARTA and nearly all forms of transportation infrastructure except air transportation in this town have led to a transportation system that has become a cruel joke at best, but that is a nightmare teetering on tragic overall. All forms of local governance starting with the state and on down through county, city and other various governmental agencies (for some odd reason, the much-maligned GDOT and the aforementioned MARTA instantly come to mind) have proven time-and-time again to be almost totally inept at managing anything other than lobbyist funds and perks into their own bulging pockets. An agency such as MARTA that is too incompetent to want to adequately fund its own operations and expansion through an adequate fare structure (not to mention proper appropriation of funds) while waiting for pigs to fly for the state to start funding it is clearly NOT the answer to this region’s transit and mobility issues. Don’t get me started on the comically inept Georgia Department of Transportation and it’s idiotic “managing” parent, the Georgia General Assembly because, after all, I don’t have all day to type and you don’t have all day to read while I beat a dead horse yet again. Everything we seen in the past decade or more in terms of our increasingly lacking infrastructure while our population has shot through the roof has been because of a glaring lack of leadership and vision at the city, and especially, state levels.Report


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