New Hope For Highway User Revenues?

This week, the Maryland Municipal League’s annual convention included a new wave of optimism about future restoration of Highway User Revenues, the share of state transportation revenues traditionally distributed to local governments to maintain roads and bridges. A gubernatorial candidate forum saw nearly all candidates pledge to work toward restoration, and comments by the Maryland Senate President offered his firmest public commitment toward an advance for both municipal and county roadway funding.

As previously reported on Conduit Street and in mainstream media, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and all four Republican gubernatorial candidates (David Craig, Ron George, Larry Hogan, and Charles Lollar) expressed support for restoring Highway User Revenues to local governments. Their public support included a specific commitment to return to a statutory formula-based approach, to replace the year-by-year grants that have emerged in the last two years as partial recompense.

During the League’s June 10 inaugural dinner event, Senate President Mike Miller reflected on the 2014 effort to continue municipal road funding (for which he was honored by MML), and went on to look forward.  “We re going to continue that [municipal] funding next year, and the year after that, and keep it going,” he said.

Senator Miller went on to reference county road funding as well, saying “we’re also going to find funding for counties, we’re going to do that, too.” He later returned to the topic of county funding (in addition to strictly municipal funding) and said “We’re going to work with the House of Delegates to get something for the Maryland Association of Counties next year, too.”

During the 2014 legislative session, MACo adopted transportation funding as its top legislative initiative, and the level of concern from county officials has remained high since the state funding diversion in 2009. After a wave of county officials supported a funding restoration bill in the Senate (SB 664, sponsored by Senators Edwards and Madaleno, the two Senate members of a special transportation work group), the Senate conceded a structural inability to pass the sweeping changes sought by MACo and MML, but did initiate a one-time $10 million grant for local pothole repairs, which was later expedited (funding was actually advanced into FY 2014) through encouragement from the House of Delegates, and then administrative action by the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Senator Miller’s comments reinforce the interest shown from his chamber’s transportation funding leader, Senator Ed DeGrange, who indicated to the Sun that he’d like to “return to a more generous formula for distributing local highway aid.”

MACo, MML, and other stakeholders supporting safe and well-maintained local roadways will continue to advocate for this critically important funding stream.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties