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04 February 2015

Rep. Mike Jacobs Introduces Legislation to Permanently Lift MARTA Spending Restrictions

MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, is riding high these days.

First, voters approved bringing MARTA to Clayton County, with buses scheduled to start rolling in March. Then came reports that both ridership and revenues are up at MARTA [11Alive (11 December 2014). Ridership, revenues up at MARTA. WXIA-TV. Retrieved on 4 February 2015.]. Now, a new proposal from a Republican lawmaker will allow MARTA greater flexibility on how the transit agency spends taxpayer dollars.

(A new bill would allow MARTA to spend more on trains and buses. Image courtesy MARTA.)
House Bill 213, sponsored by Rep. Mike Jacobs (R - Brookhaven), would permanently lift the 50/50 restriction on MARTA spending. Rep. Jacobs is chairman of the legislative committee that overseas the MARTA budget.

Currently, state law requires MARTA to spend 50% of its funds on operations and 50% on infrastructure.

MARTA CEO Keith Parker has made it no secret that he wants the 50/50 restriction removed entirely.

“There are going to be lean years where we may want to do some things and have all the flexibility available to us to adjust to whatever the business climate requires and having a mandate like this can sometimes get in the way,” Parker told WABE-FM's Jonathan Shapiro last March.

House Bill 213, co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of legislators including Rep. Billy Mitchell (D - Stone Mountain) and Rep. Calvin Smyre (D - Columbus), says that the 50/50 spending restriction is lifted permanently if a report the findings of a completed independent management audit of the MARTA's current operations is filed with the Governor, the State Auditor, and the chair of the MARTA legislative oversight committee every four years.

If MARTA fails to file an independent audit, the spending restriction goes back into place for four years.