Fairfax supervisors urge General Assembly to reject Youngkin’s proposed Metro funding cuts

A train at the McLean Metro station platform (file photo)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is asking the county’s General Assembly delegation to oppose Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed funding cuts to Metro in the state’s budget.

During a board meeting on Tuesday (April 16), supervisors unanimously approved a letter written by Chairman Jeff McKay, Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw, and Dranesville District Supervisor James Bierman, asking the delegation to oppose the cuts and retain the funding needed to address the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) estimated $750 million shortfall.

The General Assembly passed the FY 2024-2026 biennium budget in March which included $149.5 million from the state to address WMATA’s funding shortage in FY 2025 and FY 2026, according to the letter.

“This funding, which is expected to be matched by the local funding partners, including Fairfax County, is essential to putting WMATA on sound financial footing and retaining its consistent operations.”

A month later, Youngkin announced his proposed budget amendments, which included cutting $113.8 million of WMATA’s funding. Instead, Youngkin urged localities to use funds previously allocated to them through state assistance.

However, the county clarified in its letter that this money — provided to the region through the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) by the Northam Administration in 2022 — was used to cover immediate Metro payments following the pandemic and to reserve the remainder for “ongoing needs.”

Even with the additional funding, the letter says the county expects the money from the NVTC to be largely depleted soon, making their request even more vital.

“We know WMATA is absolutely essential to our regional economy,” McKay said during Tuesday’s County Board meeting. “It is essential to Virginia’s economy, bringing in over $1 billion a year into the general fund.”

He also noted how the lack of funding could impact taxpayers.

“If this money doesn’t come from the state, where will it come from? From the real estate taxpayers of Fairfax County. That’s where it will come from,” McKay said.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity said he was reluctantly supporting the request, saying Metro needed to “figure out how they’re going to get their costs under control.”

“We’ve got to get the long-term answer figured out because, you know, punting it down the road with a couple more years of ridiculous funding increases is not necessarily the best answer,” Herrity said.

Citing a 2017 study by former U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Walkinshaw noted that Metro would need $500 million a year in dedicated funding to achieve stable financial footing, a burden that would ultimately fall on resident taxpayers.

“This idea that there are hundreds of millions of dollars or billions of dollars of cost savings to be found at Metro is a fantasy,” he said. “The amount needed in dedicated funding to prevent us from having to go back to property taxpayers every single year is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s just math.”