The Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding met on September 27 to begin discussing policy recommendations for its final report. The Commission discussed 16 Policy Recommendations and plans to meet again the week of October 10 to discuss revenue options.
As reported by MarylandReporter.com, the first recommendation to “provide locals taxing authority to raise revenues for transportation and encourage localities to develop their own dedicated transportation revenues generated much discussion.
“It seems to me if we are doing this, we’re waving the white flag,” said member Lon Anderson, director of government and public relations for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “The state is never going to come up with enough money, so we’re letting the municipalities go.”
Judith Davis, the mayor of Greenbelt representing the Maryland Municipal League on the commission, said that while local governments are desperate for more funds, the state should meet its obligations. Local governments received millions of dollars from the state to use on road projects in less critical budget times, but those funds have lately been taken to meet other government needs.
Bauman said that the recommendation was not intended as a method to give up on state funding, but as a way to give local governments more flexibility. However, he said, it is clear that the commission does not exist to make recommendations to local governments. He recommended deleting the recommendation.
When discussing the second recommendation, “include funding for local transportation needs in additional revenue sources considered,” it was suggested that the recommendation from the February 18 report be substituted that specifically states to “restore highway user revenues to the local governments.” However, the additional State funding recommendation of $520 million does not include funds for this purpose. Several members of the Commission suggested that the net target for new revenue be increased to $870 million to include the restoration.
Other recommendations discussed by the Commission include:
· Requiring an extremely quick timetable for the legislature to approve any public-private partnership for transportation. The draft recommendation at the end of Tuesday would be that all review and approval take no more than 10 days.
· Ending subsidies for transit ridership that come out of the transportation trust fund. Currently, subsidies – mostly for people involved in social services programs – come out of money that would otherwise go to the trust fund for transportation. Commission members agreed that subsidies are valuable, but should be paid for by the agencies that sponsor them.
· Doing assessments to determine if transportation loans for local governments are a good idea.