This year for Christmas, I asked Santa for some Packers clothes, home brewing equipment, a gun belt, and a PS4. What did Nashville Mayor Megan Barry ask for? A $1.5 billion grant from the biggest Santa of them all, the federal government, to help finance her $5.4 billion transit plan.
While nothing is certain yet, it looks like the mayor is as likely to get her wish as Miami is a white Christmas. Recently, the Nashville Business Journal reported that as of now, the 2018 federal budget does not have any funding for new mass transit projects, only projects already approved, according to a Federal Transit Administration spokesman. While I don’t like the fact that the hard-earned income of somebody from Memphis or Chattanooga can be taxed to help build trains in Nashville, these funds account for over 25% of the plan’s estimated construction costs. Without the grant, the mayor and other transit proponents would have few alternatives besides increasing the plan’s already heavy burden on Nashville taxpayers. This could result in the four tax increases being raised even higher, most likely giving Nashville the highest sales tax in the nation, instead of being just tied with Chicago. Alternatively, the other option could be to extend the life of the tax increases past their current end-date of 2068. Either approach sounds awful.
As more details are unveiled, the mayor’s train plan is looking less and less like the shiny gift under the tree and more like your ugliest Christmas sweater.