Counties React to Transportation Financing Proposals

A previous post on Conduit Street summarized the components of President Miller’s transportation financing legislation, which authorizes a county to impose up to a 5 cent motor fuel tax on the wholesale price of motor fuel. On or after July 1, 2017, if a county imposes less than 5 cents, a tax in the amount of the difference between the two rates will automatically be imposed.  Revenue generated by the motor fuel tax directly imposed by the county will be distributed to the county where the retail service station is located.  Revenue generated through the additional tax rate to bring the county rate to 5 cents,  will be distributed to the Gasoline and Motor Vehicle Revenue Account of the Transportation Trust Fund.

Authorizing counties to impose up to a 5 cent motor fuel tax has received mixed reactions.  As reported by the Gazette, Anne Arundel County Council Chairman Jerry Walker said,

If Miller’s proposal is passed, counties would have three years to implement the gas tax, and if the counties chose not to, the state still would charge the additional 5 cents per gallon, with the money going to the general transportation fund instead of the county, Walker said.

That means officials like himself would have to choose whether to implement the tax and keep the additional revenues in the county or see the money generated in the county possibly pay for transportation projects elsewhere.

Montgomery County Council Chairwoman Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) of Silver Spring said she appreciates that Miller is at least offering a proposal, but that the county believes it is the state’s responsibility.

Howard County Executive Kenneth Ulman (D) has taken the position that revenues are needed for transportation projects throughout the state, said his spokesman, David Nitkin.

“It would be best to have a statewide solution, but if that’s not possible — and statewide solutions have been discussed for years and not been adopted — we should keep an open mind about other alternatives,” Nitkin said.

Another proposal by the Senate President, SB 829, would constitutionally create a lock box for transportation dollars.  Similar proposals have been introduced by other members of the General Assembly, but this is the first time a bill has been introduced by the Senate President.  As reported by the Frederick News-Post,

[Senator David] Brinkley doesn’t want to talk about raising taxes until the state puts a lock on the transportation trust fund, he said. As he has in previous sessions, he has this year introduced a bill to guard the fund against raiding by state lawmakers.

The most high-profile transportation plan so far this session has come courtesy of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. Like Brinkley, Miller, D-District 27, supports amending the state constitution to keep trust fund dollars from being diverted away from transportation priorities.

[Senator Ron]Young agrees that securing the transportation coffers is necessary to restore the public’s trust in the system.

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