The Arundel Voice recently published an opinion piece by Anne Arundel Councilman Jerry Walker in which he explains the financial difficulties local governments face in trying to repair roads damaged by this winter’s storms. In explaining these difficulties, he draws a correlation between expensive pothole repairs and the limited transportation funding local governments receive from the State.
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%. Anne Arundel County’s funds alone were cut from $30 million annually to $1 million annually (though this has since slightly increased to $3 million annually). As Councilman Walker describes in the article:
The frustration throughout local governments was compounded during the 2013 legislative session when the General Assembly increased the gas tax with no corresponding increase in the HUR funds to county or municipal governments. Our funding used to be formula-driven – i.e. the state collects X dollars and the locals get X percent – but that has turned into an arbitrary flat rate in spite of the state collecting more revenue from the increased gas tax that is scheduled to climb to over 40 cents per gallon.
Even more frustrating is the lack of a defined plan to restore previously lost funding or to develop a new formula based on the higher rate.
MACo has been strongly advocating for a funding strategy to be put in place this session to restore HUR. While this does not seem likely for this session, the Senate and House budget committees have recognized the funding challenges created by this year’s severe winter weather. The Senate has approved $10 million for county pothole repairs in its fiscal 2015 budget plan. In its decision meeting today, the House Appropriation’s Transportation and the Environment Subcommittee took action to have the $10 million allocated in fiscal 2014 to provide for more immediate roadway repairs. While the timing difference in these recommendations will be resolved by a budget conference committee, it seems likely that counties will receive $10 million to assist with much needed repairs.