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          Front Page




Streetcar Tax Is Repealed

By Jim Ludwick
Journal Staff Writer
    City councilors late Monday night repealed tax legislation that would have provided funding for a streetcar system.
    They rescinded a decision made in November that had extended the city's transportation tax until 2020. Monday night's action restores a plan to end the tax in 2009, although councilors made it clear they might ultimately ask voters to extend the tax beyond that date.
    The transportation tax is a quarter-cent gross-receipts tax approved by voters in 1999.
    The tax decision was tacked onto legislation calling for a study of the cost and benefits of creating a streetcar system.
    Councilors rejected a proposal from Brad Winter that would have added a commitment to put a streetcar proposal on the ballot before spending local tax money on construction. Because councilors wouldn't add that provision, Winter voted against the underlying legislation, even though he had been among the most outspoken supporters of repealing the streetcar tax.
    Ultimately, there was a 5-4 vote in favor of a streetcar study and repeal of the streetcar tax legislation. The proposal was favored by Isaac Benton, Michael Cadigan, Don Harris, Martin Heinrich and Ken Sanchez; it was opposed by Winter, Council President Debbie O'Malley, Craig Loy and Sally Mayer.
    The key amendment that added repeal of the tax legislation was also approved 5-4. Repeal was favored by Cadigan, Harris, Heinrich, Sanchez and Winter; it was opposed by Benton, Loy, Mayer and O'Malley.
    Winter's proposal, calling for a commitment to put a streetcar proposal on the ballot, was defeated 5-4. It was favored by Winter, Cadigan, Harris and Loy; it was opposed by Benton, Heinrich, Mayer, O'Malley and Sanchez.
    Mayor Martin Chávez, who had called for repeal of the tax legislation, said the council made a reasonable decision on the issue.
    "It's a good outcome. It's fair. We will take a step back. Eventually, I think we will have a rail system," he said in a phone interview.
    Winter said that without a commitment on a public vote, "it looks like a scam," because there seems to be a predisposition in favor of a streetcar system even before the study is conducted.
    "Everybody I've talked to believes it should go to voters, and that's not in there," he said of the legislation.
    Other councilors agreed the streetcar issue will likely be on a ballot, even though most were not ready to make that commitment as part of the legislation approved Monday.
    Heinrich said approval of the underlying legislation was important— "to clear the air and start from scratch."