Transportation Bills Heard in Senate Budget and Taxation Committee

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee heard  a wide range of transportation bills yesterday ranging from legislation to increase the sales tax and/or impose local taxes for transportation to legislation that would provide separate funding streams  for transit and roadways.  Other legislation would create a “lock box” to protect transportation dollars from being transferred to the State’s general fund.

The hearing brought out the many conflicting viewpoints that will make it difficult to find consensus on this issue. From the Frederick News Post:

The state’s transportation revenue washes into a single fund, which finances everything from road construction to rail improvements. Until the state starts separating mass transit from roads funding, motorists — especially those from less populated areas — will not be willing to consider increases to the gas tax, said Brinkley, R-District 4.

Others, such as Sen. Richard Madaleno, suggested that mass transit benefits everyone by taking cars off the road. While money from rural areas can flow toward urban projects, funds can also move in the opposite direction, he said.

“We do have a system in Maryland where we’re all called upon to make a contribution, even though we might not all use those assets,” said Madaleno, D-District 18.

Senate President Mike Miller’s legislation (SB 830), which would raise additional revenue through a combination of statewide revenues and local-option taxes, was heard first.  He also spoke to his other bill, SB 829, which would require a fiscal emergency before transportation dollars could be transferred to the general fund. The Washington Post reported on his opening comments:

“These are just possibilities, folks,” Miller told the committee. “These are proposals to jump-start a conversation. … Our transportation trust fund is going to run dry.”

Other transportation bills heard yesterday as reported by the Capital-Gazette included:

Senate Bill 362 from Sen. Ronald Young, D-Frederick, would enable counties or municipalities to levy as much as 2 cents a gallon on gas sales to fund local road and transit projects.

Senate bills 652 and 653, filed by Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett, would add a 2.1 percent tax to the wholesale price of gas. It would also add 0.5 percent to the 6 percent sales tax only in counties served by mass transit, including Anne Arundel.

On the House side of the General Assembly, where no bills have been introduced to raise transportation revenue,

Busch told The Capital this month if something were to happen with a transportation funding plan, it wouldn’t happen until March.