NC governor objects to Charlotte streetcar plan

Feb. 01, 2013 @ 12:37 PM

As mayor Charlotte, Pat McCrory did not like a proposal to use property taxes for a streetcar line in the city.

Now Gov. Pat McCrory has told Charlotte officials that a streetcar plan could hurt the city's chances of getting state money to expand its light rail service, according to a memo sent Thursday.

Charlotte needs a state grant of $250 million to extend its light rail system to the University of North Carolina Charlotte.

The Republican McCrory counted the light rail system as one of his main accomplishments as mayor. But that support did not extend to the idea of using property taxes, rather than the half-cent sales tax for transit tax, to pay for a streetcar line.

McCrory met earlier this week with Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann and Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble.

In a memo to Mayor Anthony Foxx and council members, Hagemann and Kimble wrote: "He said to us that if the streetcar project were to go forward as currently proposed, future State funding for the Blue Line Extension could be at risk. When we pointed out that, we, as staff, do not have a vote on the matter, the Governor responded by noting that our bosses do, and that by telling us he would assume that we will relay this point to them."

Foxx, a Democrat, supports plans for a streetcar line and said he was "outraged" over what he considers a threat.

Gubernatorial spokesman Chris Walker said McCrory is not threatening Charlotte officials but says they need to be aware that using property taxes for the street car line would not be well-received in Raleigh.

"The governor is a strong supporter of the light-rail line and will continue to be," Walker said.

A streetcar system has been in the city's area transportation plan since 2007. McCrory supported that idea.

But the Charlotte Area Transit System said two years later that it could not pay for all the projects with the mass transit sales tax. McCrory rejected the idea of using property taxes, rather than the sales tax, to pay for the streetcar plan.