Tuesday, April 10, 2018

MoCo Council bill would steal money from disabled, seniors for BRT slush fund

After voting to tax Uber rides to subsidize failing Barwood Cab, which ended with Barwood filing for bankruptcy anyway, now the Montgomery County Council is trying to convert funds the tax earmarked for seniors and the disabled into a slush fund it can use for the $10 billion Bus Rapid Transit boondoggle. Bill 13-18, sponsored by Council President Helpless Hans Riemer, would strip all language from the Uber tax that directed funds to transportation for the disabled, elderly and poor, and "instead allow use of the fund for any transportation purpose in the County."

We already knew that the Uber tax, as I warned in my testimony opposing it, would hurt County residents and Uber drivers alike. Exactly as I predicted, Uber rides became more expensive, Uber drivers are being paid less than they were a few years ago, and no new ride-sharing competitor has entered the Montgomery County market since the tax was imposed.

This also made the County less appealing to the young professionals the Council has tried to publicly claim they wanted to attract, as millennials overwhelmingly use Uber rather than taxicabs. To our stuck-in-the-60s Council, diesel buses and Barwood Cab are still considered state-of-the-art transportation.

But now the Council is adding insult to severe economic injury to the County. When passing the Uber tax, the bleeding-heart language related to improving transportation for the disabled and elderly was used by the Council in the media as a fig leaf, to cover the anti-progress, fight-the-future nature of the Uber tax.

Now the Council is cravenly plotting to steal the money out of the hands of the disabled and elderly, and use it to fund their struggling $10 billion BRT boondoggle. The County, currently facing a $208,000,000 budget shortfall, has been unable to find enough funds for the BRT scheme. They failed to create an independent transit authority twice, which would have had unlimited power to tax and spend with no oversight by any elected official. Recently, they tried and failed to have their allies in Annapolis give them "quick-take" land seizure authority, which would have allowed them to seize homes and businesses - not only for the demolitions BRT will require along each route, but which could also have been sold to generate more money for the unfunded BRT boondoggle.

Desperate for money, the greedy Council will now try to pry it from the hands of disabled, poor and elderly residents, and put it into the pockets of themselves and their developer sugar daddies, whom the whole BRT scheme was dreamed up to profit.

It's outrageous.

It's bad enough Uber and Lyft riders have had to pay more, and via the tax pay Barwood Cab even if they weren't using their services. But to then find out the Council used the disabled and seniors to actually gain a new revenue source for their BRT boondoggle, this is a new low for even this corrupt Council.

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