AS A MARYLAND gubernatorial candidate in 2014 appealing to exurban and rural voters, Larry Hogan seemed to regard subways and buses as white elephants sponging up cash better used to build roads.
But three years into his term in office, Mr. Hogan (R) has made a break with his past and can credibly claim to have been the decisive factor in turning the regional tide in favor of a workable bailout for Metro, the national capital area’s ailing transit system.
The bailout, which would provide Metro with an earmarked funding source for the first time in the rail service’s 40-year history, remains in doubt pending the outcome of negotiations this week among Republican lawmakers who control Virginia’s state legislature. Still, it is partly thanks to Mr. Hogan’s leadership that Richmond and Annapolis have edged so close to putting Metro on a par with the nation’s other major transit systems, virtually all of which rely on a reliable stream of annual state or local dollars that they can use as collateral to finance major improvement projects.
On Friday, Mr. Hogan, who only last summer adamantly opposed any additional state funding for Metro, struck a deal with Democrats who control the legislature in Annapolis to add $150 million to Maryland’s annual capital subsidy for Metro. The funds, which are contingent on an equivalent commitment from Virginia and the District, would more than double the state’s current allotment. They would be drawn not from new taxes but from existing transportation projects elsewhere — including roads in rural areas that overwhelmingly backed Mr. Hogan’s candidacy in 2014.
If matched by Virginia and the District, the new funding would amount to $450 million annually, 10 percent short of the $500 million that Metro says it needs to restore itself to a top-notch transit network. Still, the governor’s evolution reflects a clear-eyed view that the suburbs served by Metro are a key engine driving Maryland’s growth. As Mr. Hogan evidently grasps, starving Metro of funding would sap the region’s prosperity and likely defeat any chance that the Washington area could land the 50,000 new jobs for which it is contending in the sweepstakes to host Amazon’s second corporate headquarters. (The Post is owned by Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos.)
Mr. Hogan, who dropped his opposition to new funding last fall, moved even further in recent weeks, agreeing to more money than he originally proposed, accepting permanent funding rather than the four-year plan he floated, and dropping a demand that the state’s commitment be tied to an increased federal subsidy (which looks iffy at best).
District officials have made it clear they will follow suit once Maryland and Virginia finalize new funds. Now the burden is on Republicans in Richmond, whose 66-seat majority in Virginia’s House of Delegates was cut to 51 seats in last fall’s elections. GOP leaders there seem to get that beggaring Metro, or yoking new funding to labor reforms and other demands that Maryland and the District will not support, would ultimately strangle the commonwealth’s own prospects. They would be wise to take a cue from Mr. Hogan’s leadership.