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14 April 2010

House Speaker To MARTA: Drop Dead

AJC Political Insider Jim Galloway brings our attention to some disappointing comments made by Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R - Blue Ridge) concerning the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

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.

Galloway, Jim (2010-4-13). House Speaker David Ralston: MARTA will have to wait. Political Insider. Retrieved on 2010-4-14.

For all intents and purposes, the Speaker told MARTA to drop dead with his comments.

You see, MARTA is a transit agency that receives no funding from the state. In addition, MARTA isn't able to access half the sales tax revenue it collects due to a restriction put in place by the legislature four decades ago.

Last year, MARTA was brought to the brink of draconian cuts to service before the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) stepped up and bailed the transit system out [Shirek, Jon (2009-4-10). Suburbs Save MARTA. WXIA-TV. Retrieved on 2010-4-14.]. There was hope, at the time, that the ARC bailout would convince legislative leaders to pass a bill giving MARTA access to the estimated $65 million it has sitting in the bank.

That hope has faded with the words of House Speaker David Ralston.

It is disheartening that our legislative leaders seem to have no vision or foresight.