While funding sources for local roads and bridges has attracted attention during the interim and early session, MACo has focused on its core argument: the decades-old distribution of Highway User Revenues should be restored back to levels where it regains its status as the main engine supporting local roadway costs.
As reported by the Gazette, legislation was recently introduced by Senator Richard Madaleno to authorize local governments to impose up to a $20 vehicle registration fee to generate additional revenue for local transportation needs. According to a Task Force that recommended this as an option for funding local transportation, a $20 fee imposed by counties and cities would generate approximately $96 million in revenue. Under the bill, revenue raised by the fee would be matched by the State.
MACo supports a different approach. “Transportation Funding Restoration” is the organization’s top priority for this session. With the recent expansion of transportation revenues, it is time for local governments to again play a more significant role in the State’s transportation funding plan.
For decades, local roadways were funded as one of the modes of transportation receiving 30% of Highway User Revenues (HUR). This percentage has been reduced to 9.6%. The average annual reduction since fiscal 2010 is $350 million. Cumulatively, this equates to approximately $1.75 billion in foregone revenue for local roadways.
For county governments, this has meant a remarkable cutback since FY 2009. The 23 county governments now share a meager $26.2 million in annual State funding for their entire road and bridge network. Simply put, no other component of the state budget has suffered a 91% cut like this.
MACo is advocating for a funding strategy to be put in place this session to restore HUR. Two bills have been introduced to make this a reality.
SB 664/HB 1067 , sponsored by Senators George Edwards and Richard Madaleno (a House companion bill is sponsored by Delegate Wendell Beitzel with multiple co-sponsors), would restore HUR over a three-year time frame back to 20% of the funding level received prior beginning in FY 2016. SB 765, sponsored by Senator Richard Colburn, would begin an immediate restoration back to 30% of HUR beginning in FY 2015. While the incremental strategy may be viewed as more reasonable, both approaches recognize that local governments have significant transportation needs that are not being met.