Republican Leaders to Focus on State Budget and Transportation Issues This Session

As reported by the Gazette, republican leaders plan to focus on the state’s budget and transportation issues this session, “they’ll again be pushing to reduce government spending and avoid policies they see as harmful to the state’s rural communities.”

While democratic leaders are optimistic the structural deficit will be eliminated, Republican leaders are not.

House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Dist. 29C) of Lusby, though, is wary of such optimism.

“There’s a sense that the state budget is back on good footing; I don’t think that’s necessarily true,” O’Donnell said.

The looming threat of federal funding reductions –– such as sequestration measures that could take effect in February and drastically restrict federal spending –– leave Maryland vulnerable due to the strong federal presence in the state, he said.

Republican leaders are also wary of a new tax to raise transportation revenue.

A new tax to raise transportation funding –– whether a sales tax on gasoline or an overall sales-tax hike, as have been discussed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) –– are also a bad idea in the state’s delicate economic situation, O’Donnell said, adding that such taxes were regressive and ultimately would harm the economy.

Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin (R-Dist. 36) of Elkton said he believes there would be bipartisan support for a proposal to isolate road repair funding from mass transit funding.

Pipkin and other Republicans have long been critical of transit initiatives such as the Purple Line and Red Line light-rail projects, in the Washington and Baltimore regions, respectively, which they say will cost several billion dollars but which won’t be used by rural residents.

“In order for us to resolve that, I think we need to talk about separating funding streams,” Pipkin said.

Cecil County Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Dist. 36) of Chesapeake City said the solution to transportation funding was for the state to stop using transportation money to balance the budget, as has been done with funds for local road repair in previous years.

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