This year, numerous sponsors have introduced variants on the same theme — (semi-quoting here) put the “trust” back into the Transportation Trust Fund. Following a period where the State budget resolution has obliged deep cuts to many special funds including the Transportation Trust Fund, many advocates for transportation have urged some protection — likely a constitutional amendment — to ensure that such funding shifts be prohibited. (A statutory protection would not be strong enough to withstand an annual Budget Reconciliation bill, which is explicitly designed to override various statutes to effect a balanced budget plan)
However, even as multiple sponsors introduce variations on the same theme, only one bill has so far been advanced that would actually recognize that the local share of transportation revenues — gasoline taxes and vehicle registrations — have been a massive victim of state cuts. Beginning in FY 2010, the share of these revenues sent to county and municipal governments via formula known as “Highway User Revenues” has been cut by some $350 million per year. Every county’s share of Highway User Revenue is now approximately 3% of what it was just a few years ago — and assuming this plan continues into FY 2012 (built into the Governor’s budget already, as this cut was made permanent in last year’s budget reconciliation bill) the total share of motorist-derived revenues going to local roads and bridges will have been shorted by more than $1 billion.
HB 591, sponsored by Delegates Charles Barkley and Susan Krebs, would remedy this funding transfer. The bill is a constitutional amendment, which seeks to protect transportation revenues for their intended uses, and restore their direction to the shares in place prior to the massive budget cutting of FY 2010 and since.
From the relevant section of the bill, here’s the operative section:
(F) FUNDS IN THE GASOLINE AND MOTOR VEHICLE REVENUE ACCOUNT IN THE TRANSPORTATION TRUST FUND SHALL BE DISTRIBUTED AS PROVIDED IN §§ 8–402, 8–403, 8–404, AND 8–405 OF THE TRANSPORTATION ARTICLE AS THEY WERE IN EFFECT ON OCTOBER 1, 2008.