Opinion Piece Raises Local Transportation Funding Challenges, Approaches

An opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun discusses issues surrounding transportation funding and why, after a revenue increase last session, legislation has been introduced again to address funding for local roads and bridges. From the op-ed piece:

What all the recent squabbling is about is one specific component of the fund known as Highway Users Revenue (HUR). That’s the money that goes to local governments, both counties and municipalities, to pay for local transportation projects. Last year’s gas tax hike didn’t guarantee one dime more will be paid to local governments under HUR, and some mayors, county executives, council members and commissioners aren’t particularly happy about that.

That’s because HUR was reduced drastically during the recession beginning in 2009.

While the piece mentions legislation that has been introduced to restore HUR and give local governments the authority to impose a $20 vehicle registration fee, it hones in on another approach that would create regional transportation authorities.

Little noticed amid the brouhaha was the report of a task force studying local and regional transportation funding released late last year. They came up with the idea of adding the $20 registration fee, but it was part of a larger vision of decentralizing transportation financing in Maryland and creating so-called “Regional Transportation Authorities” that would support local projects.

As reported in a prior post on Conduit Street, MACo is advocating for 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.

MACo is advocating for a funding strategy to be put in place this session to restore HUR.

The Maryland Municipal League’s Legislative Committee Chair and Mayor of Aberdeen Michael E. Bennett argues in support of this same approach in a response submitted to this opinion piece.

The Maryland Municipal League is hopeful cities and towns can be part of a discussion with the next administration and General Assembly to fix the broken HUR distribution formula and restore funding to local governments, once and for all.

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