The Hagerstown Herald-Mail recently reported on the common interest shared among counties and municipalities across the state, which is to restore funding to local governments through highway-user revenues (HUR). For nearly 70 years, local governments received roughly 30% of highway-user funds while the Maryland Department of Transportation received the other 70%. Budget adjustments were made during the recession that resulted in local governments receiving less than 10% of these revenues.
Primarily focusing on Washington County, this article features Washington County Commissioner and MACo Second Vice President and Legislative Committee chair John Barr. In The Herald-Mail‘s interview with Mr. Barr, a portion of which is shown by video in the article, he explains how the State’s decision to reduce the proportion of highway revenues going to local governments has affected his county.
Washington County government used to receive almost $9 million annually in highway-user revenue, but that has been cut to $800,000 for the last four or five years, Barr said. The reduction in revenue has made a “serious impact on maintaining 850 miles of roads in our county and our communities,” Barr said.
“We’ve had to scrimp and save, and cut some other programs — safety, education — and put dollars in on a limited amount to the highway department,” he said.
And the highway-user revenues aren’t used just for maintaining the county’s roads, Barr said, noting that the money also is used to pay for snow removal and purchasing salt and other chemicals.
The concerns over a lack of funding for deteriorating local roads are echoed across the state. In a January 1, 2014 Baltimore Sun article, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake stated that Baltimore City “missed out on $440 million for road maintenance and construction as Annapolis kept a larger share of the transportation revenue.” Though the need to restore funding to local governments to ensure the safety of its citizens on the roadways is evident, Sen. James E. “Ed” DeGrange Sr. mentions that he is doubtful that the State will restore funding to locals this year.
Transportation funding restoration is MACo’s top legislative initiative this session.