Transportation Funding “Still in Crisis”

In an opinion piece for Center Maryland, Don Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, writes that Maryland’s Transportation Trust Fund still faces a significant funding shortfall and that there is no consensus among political leaders to address it.

The START coalition, which includes more than 60 organizations and businesses from across Maryland, is seeking three basic things from lawmakers – increase revenue for transportation infrastructure by at least $500 million per year, enact a firewall protecting the transportation fund from executive and legislative raids for non-transportation uses, and restore funding to local governments for local transportation needs.

The outcome of the recent General Assembly session graphically illustrates the magnitude of the challenge in gaining a consensus among state lawmakers on these issues. For instance, many Democrats acknowledge the need to increase the state’s investment in the transportation infrastructure, but do not support the creation of a firewall. Most Republicans oppose increasing transportation revenue, but do support a firewall.

Mr. Fry also offers his views on actions taken with respect to the Transportation Trust Fund by the General Assembly.

The bottom-line result of this pea shuffling under the shells? For the next two years, the transportation fund’s revenue will increase slightly, according to Maryland Department of Transportation estimates. But for two years it will not even receive the full benefit of the vehicle fee increases imposed this year on Maryland drivers.

The vehicle fee increases will generate a combined $123 million during the next two years, but net transportation fund revenues will increase by only $105 million during that time, according to MDOT estimates. MDOT projects that the actions of lawmakers in the 2011 session will eventually yield net annual revenue increases to the Transportation Trust Fund of $96 million by FY 2016. Generally speaking, lawmakers are taking away roughly $300 million in annual sales tax and corporate income tax revenue and replacing it with roughly $300 million in highway user revenue plus increased vehicle fees.

Meanwhile, state transportation funding to local governments will remain drastically reduced.

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