CNN Segment Blames 'Stingy Voters' for Rejecting Tax Hike for Mass Transit

Should the voters in St. Louis feel guilty? If you’re a CNN viewer, you would assume so.

A segment that aired on CNN’s March 29 “State of the Union” looked at some of the cutbacks that will go in effect on March 30 to the St. Louis bus and light rail systems.

“Metro faces a more than $50 million budget gap, two dozen bus routes are being eliminated, others shortened or put on less frequent schedules,” host John King said. “Light rail is also being cut back, leaving riders in the working class community surrounding St. Louis like Darren Berryl, asking, why me?”

Berryl, a St. Louis mass transit user, was one of several hardship stories that appeared in the report. According to one St. Louis Democrat featured in the piece, the hardship stems from a penny-pinching electorate and the larger economy.

“The funding gap has local roots,” Kind said. St. Louis County voters rejected a modest tax hike to help the metro system. Local officials like County Executive Charlie Dooley thought it would pass, but say voters suddenly got stingy just before the November election as the stock market tumbled and Washington bailed out big financial firms.”

Dooley chastised voters for not realizing the impact they’re going to have on the workforce.

“This entire community is going to be impacted and I don't think we realized it at the time that we had this vote,” Dooley said. “It's about jobs. It's always about jobs. And if you don't have public transportation, how do you create jobs, how do you attract businesses to move to St. Louis to improve our workforce?”

But maybe the taxpayers grew tired of subsidizing a failed government-run transit system. According to the March 29 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Metro system is bleeding money. It faces an operating deficit of $45 million in 2009 – expected to reach $50 million in 2010.