CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After a public hearing Saturday on the future of the Maryland Area Regional Commuter train service in the Eastern Panhandle, a Jefferson County lawmaker says the long-term solution for ensuring services continue is additional funding from local and state sources.
The Maryland Transit Authority held a public hearing in Charles Town about the proposal to cut four of its six trains that head into the state. The transit authority is requesting $3.4 million from West Virginia to not cut those services.
Around 250 West Virginians take the train on a daily basis.
Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said West Virginia has to pay more if they want to keep the service operational in its current condition.
“In West Virginia, local governments do not have either the financial resources or the independent authority to act like they do in most states,” he said on MetroNews “Talkline.”
“When a West Virginian pays his or her taxes — state and local taxes combined — a much higher percentage goes to the state than is the case in just about any other state in the union. And it’s primarily because of our very, very low residential, real estate property tax. I’d like to keep that low,” he added.
Doyle requested Gov. Jim Justice take money from the contingency fund to keep the service.
“I think if he were to contribute $900,000 out of that fund, add it to the $1.1 million the Legislature has appropriated, now that takes it up to $2 million,” he said.
Doyle said if that happens, Maryland might delay service reductions for a year or cut trains to two trains a day.
“If you’re going to justify several million dollars in tax breaks to a power company in Pleasants County to keep 400 to 500 people at work, then you can justify it here,” he said.
Doyle referenced a bill lawmakers passed over the summer to eliminate the business and occupation tax for the Pleasants Power stations; the tax totaled around $12.5 million on an annual basis.
The Maryland Transit Authority is continuing to accept comments on the proposal. Written comments can be emailed to HearingComments@mdot.maryland.gov.