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Charlotte Area

City council wants a strategy before it approaches lawmakers about transit tax

Charlotte City Council last night decided to delay a vote on whether to ask state lawmakers to give Mecklenburg County the ability to levy a second half-cent sales tax for transit. Several council members said they support the plan, but want time to strategize. Last week, the state House approved a bill that would allow large urban areas in North Carolina to ask voters whether they want to raise a half-cent sales tax to support local transit. 

Mecklenburg County was not included on that list and now several local officials want to change that as revenue from the county's first transit tax continues to decline. Mayor Pro-Tem Susan Burgess was one of five city council members who voiced support for the plan last night. But she said she wanted more time to coordinate efforts with other groups like the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. "We have been so fortunate in the past to have partnerships with most of the major players in Charlotte to get our successful attempts passed in Raleigh. And I really want to go united with our business community on whatever we ask," explained Burgess.

Burgess said a last minute text from state Senator Dan Clodfelter made her decide to ask council to take some more time to get county commissioners and chamber leaders on its side. Clodfelter blocked Mecklenburg County's inclusion on the house bill. But councilman John Lassiter said such a small step shouldn't require so much coordination.

"This is very early-on in a process. We're not running after Raleigh today and saying do this today. What were doing is simply taking some action on behalf of council that says, 'we want to get in the game as it relates to any authority that allows us to meet our transportation needs in this community," said Lassiter.

Those local officials who support a second transit tax say they wouldn't consider putting it on a ballot until the economy improves. And they say if it improves enough there might not be a reason to raise it.

Councilman Warren Cooksey was the only council member to speak out against another half-cent sales tax, at least for public transit. "I think council needs to be dedicated to road needs. Transit has its funding source," said Cooksey. The City council will take up the matter next Monday. County commissioners plan to discuss it today.