Friday, July 22, 2011

TARTA and your tax dollars - hard at work lobbying for more tax dollars

APTA, the American Public Transportation Association, has been running ads on local radio urging listeners to tell their members of Congress to support public funding of public transportation. Obviously, I have a few problems with this, especially since they invoke Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton in doing so.

The first issue I have is with the distortion that today's transportation bills have become. It used to be that they supported the infrastructure (roads, highways, airports) as the quote from Pres. Reagan indicates:

The state of our transportation system affects our commerce, our economy and our future. . .Common sense tells us that it will cost a lot less to keep the system we have in good repair than to let it disintegrate and have to start over from scratch...

But today's transportation bill funds bike and pedestrian paths - and other strictly local items. And they're sucking up precious, limited funding that should be going to national transportation maintenance.

There is no way to construe the limited Constitutional authority of the federal government as allowing for the expenditure of funds on what can only be described as a local desire. A bike path in Toledo has no national - or even state-wide - impact and shouldn't be funded with federal dollars. If Toledo wants a bike path, it should build it with its own money and not expect the rest of the nation to fund, or even subsidize, it. And the same is true of every other city and community in the nation.

The second - and bigger - issue I have is with the federal funding of local public transportation - as in our TARTA, the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority. Besides the fact that TARTA is strictly a local need and should not be funded with federal dollars, it appears that TARTA and APTA are linked.

I confirmed with APTA that TARTA is a current member. Based upon the information from APTA's membership department and their website, TARTA is a Class A member and their dues are based upon their annual operating expenses, including para transit. With an operating budget around $30 million, TARTA's dues are either $26,000 or $33,000.

So we have a public, tax-funded agency paying dues to a national organization that is advocating for more tax money to go to its members. Is there anyone else who sees a problem with this picture?

As if that's not enough, TARTA is using its website to advocate for increased funding as well. Here is a screen shot asking visitors to send a form letter to members of Congress urging them to allocate more money to organizations like TARTA:

Public agencies that receive public funding should not be allowed to advocate for more public funding - or pay dues to organizations that advocate for more tax dollars on their behalf.

There is no way to actually separate the public tax dollars TARTA receives from its other funding - and even if the income is kept in different accounts, getting the tax dollars frees up other revenue and allows that other revenue to be used for lobbying for more tax dollars.

This is just plain wrong.

Of course, TARTA has a history of illegally using their public funds. They 'loaned,' without interest, public funds to their levy campaign committee and relied upon their public bonding agency to repay the illegal loans.

Ohio Revised Code, Section 9.03, states that “no governing body of a political subdivision shall use public funds to support or oppose the passage of a levy or bond issue.”

Perhaps it is time to include "or to lobby for other public funding" so we can be sure that our tax dollars are paying for the actual public services and not being used to influence a political agenda.

*** Follow up:

Yesterday I asked you to guess, without looking it up, who said the Quote of the Day on the Second Amendment. It was actually John F. Kennedy - and I'd bet that a lot of Democrats today would find his position on the right to bear arms "extreme."

It just goes to show you how far left today's Democratic Party has come. Of course, the more left they go, the more they think the GOP has gone to an extreme right. I don't see the Republican Party principles as having changed that much over time, though that is not to say that every person with an 'R' on their voter registration actually practices those principles when in office - can you say RINO?

Of course modern Democrats think the GOP has become extreme. The problem though, isn't the GOP - it's the Democrats who have moved much farther from the center than they were in the past, as the quote demonstrates.

It's a matter of perspective - and understanding perspective is critical in a political world.

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