On February 20, the MACo legislative Committee adopted a broad statement, signaling continued interest in efforts to restore local highway user funding. Rather than take positions on numerous individual bills, MACo has adopted this broad statement to communicate its views on the potentially unfolding policy debate:
Counties Are Critical to Maryland Transportation
Maryland’s citizens demand and deserve safe and effective infrastructure. This includes not just high visibility highways and mass transit, but also the locally maintained roads that represent nearly 5 of every 6 road miles. However, during the great recession, no area of state funding has been compromised more than local roads and bridges, where funding diversions now approach $1.5 billion. Far too many community roads receive no funding at all.
Levying taxes and charges on motor vehicles to serve as a “user fee” to support transportation systems has historically rallied support from motorists, businesses, and governments alike. Maryland has strayed from this ideal, leaving locally managed roadways startlingly underfunded, and dependent on the still-dropping property tax for support.
Counties are encouraged that State policy makers are approaching these difficult financing issues. Many of the proposals will create different effects on each region of the State. For this reason, MACo, as a representative of all 24 subdivisions, is not taking a position on any specific proposal. The General Assembly’s recognition of the problem is the first step to finding workable solutions.
MACo reinforces its longstanding commitment to a broad-based and equitable system of transportation financing. The historic distribution of Highway User Revenues, with 30% dedicated to local purposes, accomplished this policy goal without creating cross-jurisdictional competition in taxes or distributions. The state’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding reached the same conclusion: “The Commission recommends that Highway User Revenue (HUR) funding for localities, which includes counties, municipalities, and Baltimore City, be incrementally returned.” (Final Report, page 10)
Remedying this imbalance should be a priority for the state, and county leaders are prepared to contribute toward solutions to better sustain local transportation.
A pdf version of this statement, on one page, is available online.