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Metro may get federal stimulus money to restore some cuts

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By Rachel Lippmann, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – The Missouri General Assembly appears poised to funnel $20 million in federal stimulus money to the agency in charge of St. Louis mass transit.

The deal to provide Metro with the emergency funding still needs legislative and executive approval. But it has the support of lieutenant governor Peter Kinder, House speaker Ron Richard, and House budget chairman Allen Icet. All are Republicans from rural or suburban areas.

Metro was forced to eliminate nearly half its bus routes in March to help address a $50 million deficit in the FY2010 budget. The $20 million does not completely restore those cuts - the agency plans to restart ones in downtown and out to major business hubs in St. Louis County - but CEO Bob Baer says Metro is still grateful.

"People in the region are starting to get the big picture about why transit is so important," he said.

Metro had been seeking state support since November, when a sales tax referendum in the county failed. But, Icet said, appropriations bills came first. "Once that's done, then we proceed to other issues, Metro being one of many, so it is a process of timing and getting lots of appropriations bills," he said.

Metro will be required to find more efficient ways to operate in exchange for the money. Baer says he welcomes any stricter oversight.

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