How Existing Budgets could Fund Metro Vancouver’s Transit Expansion Plan
The proposal by the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation for a $250 million sales tax increase to fund a $7.5 billion transit expansion plan assumes that none of the money currently spent by Metro Vancouver municipalities or TransLink can be spared. This is a questionable assumption given the dramatic increase in day-to-day spending over the recent decade. Specifically, from 2003 to 2013 (the latest year of available data), Metro Vancouver municipalities collectively increased their spending by a total of 73.1%. TransLink’s spending growth was even more dramatic (at 104.8%).
By comparison, spending increases were much more modest for British Columbia’s provincial government (42.7%) and the federal government (46.2%). The increases in collective municipal and TransLink spending also greatly outpaced the combined rate of inflation and population growth in the region (31.4%).
Municipal governments and TransLink could scrutinize their own budgets to find savings. A good place to start is by ensuring that wages and benefits for government employees are in line with private-sector norms for similar positions.