The Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding met on October 25 to make its final recommendations, which were very similar to those discussed at the October 11 meeting. As discussed previously, the number one recommendation remains “Put the Trust Back in the Transportation Trust Fund.”
Of particular concern to MACo, was the recommendation dealing with the restoration of Highway User Revenues (HUR). While the Commission, in its draft final report, recommended the restoration of HUR over a five-year time frame, it was not to occur until the State reached its new State funding target of $520 million. This would have meant that the restoration of these funds would be delayed for a few more years. MACo’s representative, Charles County Commission President Candice Quinn Kelly, and the Maryland Municipal League’s representative, Greenbelt Mayor Judith F. Davis, expressed concern with the wording of this recommendation and it was amended to remove all references to the State funding target being met. The recommendation now refers to HUR being incrementally restored back to previous levels, which means back to the 70/30 share for State and local governments.
The Commission did add a new recommendation during its last meeting concerning transit. As reported by MarylandReporter.com:
The only new policy recommendation put in the report at Tuesday’s meeting advises that a study be done to determine the feasibility of a mass transit authority. This authority could have the power to levy taxes and undertake other initiatives to fund mass transit.
For its funding recommendation, the Commission approved the following:
- A total 15-cent gas tax increase, phased in over three years. At the end of the phase-in, the increase would bring in $491 million annually.
- A 50% increase in vehicle registration fees, which would raise $165 million a year.
- Increasing the titling tax rate from 6% to 6.5%. This would bring in $69 million a year.
- Doubling the fee for emissions testing from $14 to $28. This would raise $22 million a year.
- Increasing miscellaneous MVA fees, which would bring in $34 million annually.
- Increasing MTA fares and ending funding of free rides out of the transportation trust fund. This would earn $25 million a year.
- Indexing gas tax increases to inflation after three years, so the new funds keep pace with the economy.
The Commission’s final report is due to the Governor and General Assembly on November 1, 2011.
Coverage of the meeting can also be found in the Gazette.net.