Gov. Bobby Jindal recently vetoed a bill that would have shifted authority over Baton Rouge’s public transit system away from the Metro Council, giving the Capital Area Transit System’s board the power to raise fares and determine routes without council approval.
Jindal’s veto means that the Metro Council will continue to have a strong role in managing the transit system, which stands to get a big boost in funding thanks to recent voter approval of a dedicated tax for CATS.
In his veto letter, Jindal said that House Bill 865, sponsored by state Rep. Regina Barrow of Baton Rouge, would have given the CATS board authority to raise fares by more than 25 percent, and Jindal disapproved..
Some critics of Barrow’s bill expressed concern that the legislation would give an unelected board too much authority. We understand those concerns.
But we hope the Metro Council uses its authority over CATS more wisely in the future. Its previous performance in this regard has left much to be desired. In the past, members of the Metro Council didn’t seem willing to allow bus routes to be cut or fares raised to help keep the CATS budget in the black. During tough budget times, the Metro Council also stuck its head in the sand as the bus service sought funding to help keep its buses running.
The Metro Council’s poor leadership when CATS was struggling doesn’t inspire our confidence that the council will do a good job managing CATS through better times.
When a public body not known for its statesmanship has oversight over an agency getting a fresh stream of public money, citizens have a right — and an obligation — to be vigilant.