Program Open Space On Chopping Block, Yet Again

In its budget decision meeting Wednesday, the Senate Capital Budget Subcommittee adopted language that would result in devastating cuts to all components of Program Open Space (POS) – POS Stateside, POS Local, Rural Legacy and the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF). These reductions, ranging from $57 million to $75 million, would affect the State’s and local government’s ability to preserve open space, shorelines, and waterways while providing recreational opportunities.

The language adopted by the Subcommittee affects out-year funding in fiscal years 2016 – 2019. This language states that it is the General Assembly’s intent that if in fiscal years 2016 – 2019 the annual combined transfer tax and GO bond pre-authorizations for POS Stateside, POS Local, Rural Legacy, and MALPF exceeds $100 million, the amount of GO bonds for these programs that exceeds $100M will go toward State Highway Administration (SHA) stormwater remediation to assist with fulfilling the State’s requirements through its Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs).

Senate Capital Budget Subcommittee - Impact of Intent Language on Land Preservation FundingAccording to documentation prepared by the Department of Natural Resources, in the years specified, this amounts to program cuts ranging each year from $57 million to $75 million.

The Capital Budget Subcommittee will report its recommendations to the full Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on Thursday, March 20.  We suggest that interested county officials contact your members on the full committee requesting that they reject this language.

In preparation for meetings in the House budget committee next week, we also ask urge interested county officials to contact members of both the full House Appropriations Committee and the Capital Budget Subcommittee requesting that they reject this recommendation.