The House sent legislation to the Senate last week that would allow voters in Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Sandoval, and Valencia counties to approve a 0.125% increase in the local sales tax to pay for operations of the Rail Runner Express commuter rail system between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Legislators blew on toy train whistles as they passed the measure, 56 to 9. The bill is scheduled to be considered by the Senate this week.

A simple majority of voters in the four counties could establish the district and approve the increased tax, which is expected to generate $26 million a year. The district would operate the Rail Runner and could condemn property to acquire rights-of-way.

The House amended the original bill sponsored by Rep. Dan Silva, D-Albuquerque, to give the Legislature oversight of the district’s finances. The original bill gave the district the authority to issue bonds supported by the increased tax, but the amended version requires the bonds to be issued by the New Mexico Finance Authority.

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