Should money from President Obama’s economic stimulus bill be used to pay down an operating deficit in the metro area transit system? Or should it be used to expand that system along with whatever jobs that theoretically could provide?
The answer from the Met Council today? Pay off the bills.
Peter Bell, the head of the Met Council, told a legislative committee on Thursday that he’d favor using the $87 million targeted for transit, to pay off his agency’s operating deficit.
Says Finance & Commerce
Bell conceded Thursday that “at present,” those dollars aren’t intended for covering deficits in regular operational expenses. But he suggested a workaround — some federal block grant dollars currently targeted for Met Council capital costs could be moved to cover operating costs, while stimulus dollars could go toward “what we originally intended those capital dollars be used for.”
Bell’s suggestion for how the money could be used for something it isn’t intended for, illustrates a dilemma facing stimulus supporters — that money will be moved from account to account to keep everything legal, but in the end nothing gets done that wasn’t going to get done anyway.
Bell said he’d be reluctant to use stimulus money to expand transit programs while the agency is running a deficit. On Wednesday, he indicated he’s reluctant to raise fares or reduce service.