Legislators Critical of Highway User Diversions

During the House Appropriations Committee budget hearings on Transportation, committee members raised questions and concerns with the long-term diversion of transportation revenues away from the long-required use for local roads and bridges. From Ilana Kowarski’s coverage on MarylandReportewr.com:

“We were told that all of the money from the general fund has been paid back, but there’s about a billion dollars from the highway user fund that has not been returned,” said Del. Nancy Stocksdale, R-Carroll. Stocksdale was referring to the $1.1 billion of highway user revenues that have been diverted from the transportation trust fund to the general fund since 2003.

Legislative analyst Jonathan Martin explained that highway user revenues are not technically part of the transportation trust fund and that because they are a legally distinct entity, the O’Malley administration is correct in saying that it paid off all its debts to the transportation trust fund.

During the hearing, the Acting Secretary of transportation indicated support for added protections for transportation revenues:

Darrell Mobley, the acting secretary of transportation for seven months, agreed that the department funds needed to be shielded from redistribution. “I know that there are sometimes fiscal emergencies, but there needs to be some kind of lockbox,” said Mobley, who added that his agency had woefully inadequate funds.

Read the full coverage of the hearings online.

The DLS report detailing these issues is also available online – page 31 shows the multi-year diversion of highway user revenues to the general fund. That analysis, though, does not reflect the continuing diversion of these funds away from local roads and bridges and toward the state’s own transportation trust fund for state projects – a policy change that was made permanent as part of recent budget reconciliations.

DLS Transportation Overview (budget analysis)

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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