Harris County Commissioners Court made it official Tuesday, passing a resolution calling on Metro to keep a quarter of its 1 percent sales tax flowing to road projects.
The 5-0 vote leaves only Mayor Annise Parker backing Metro Chairman Gilbert Garcia’s proposal to cap the so-called “general mobility” payments so the transit agency can put more toward buses and rail.
Garcia said he expects at least two or three ideas to be presented at Metro’s meeting on Thursday. The agency will choose one proposal Aug. 3 and will craft ballot language Aug. 17.
County Commissioners Steve Radack and Jack Cagle and County Judge Ed Emmett said the status quo is unfair to residents in some unincorporated areas of the county who pay taxes to Metro but get few services.
“It’s long overdue for the citizens of the unincorporated area of Harris County to stand together and fight against the unfair Metro sales tax imposed upon them,” Radack said, deriding Metro’s light rail as “a choo-choo train.”
Radack said common sense dictates the mobility payments should continue at the current level, given that the unincorporated county is growing faster than Houston.
“We’re not even on the discussion of what would be the reasonable or right, fair, thing today,” Cagle said. “We’re just saying, ‘Hey, don’t move the ball further into the hole.’ ”
Even Commissioner El Franco Lee, much of whose precinct is inside the city of Houston, said he favors the status quo.
“We get a better return the way it is now,” Lee said. “My understanding of that cap change is not favorable to the unincorporated area.”
You can always count on Steve Radack to elevate the discourse wherever he goes. All due respect to Commissioner Lee, but I’m not shedding any tears for unincorporated Harris County. They get plenty of my tax dollars, and more than their share of transportation projects. Last I checked, most of us here in Houston won’t be adding a drive down the Grand Parkway to our daily routines. That’s life, and that’s the way this works. Commissioner Cagle is correct that we haven’t worked out yet what is fair or reasonable. Nor do we know yet what Metro will propose; some kind of kick the can down the road compromise is a possibility. The Commissioners have expressed their opinion, at least one member of Council would like that body to do the same, and ultimately it will be up to the voters to decide. I trust Harris County will be willing to abide by their decision, even if it’s not the answer they want. Houston Politics has more.