Congressional Staff Discuss Federal Funding for Transportation and Infrastructure at Summer MACo Conference

Xan Fishman of The Office of Congressman John Delaney and Mike Belarmino of the National Association of Counties compare notes at MACo’s Summer Conference.

In Federal Funding for County Causes: Working with Congress, staff to the Maryland Congressional Delegation and a representative of the National Association of Counties described federal funding opportunities for county infrastructure and legislation affecting local governments.

Lori Albin, State Director, The Office of Senator Barbara Mikulski shared information about SAFER and TIGER grants available to county governments. She spoke about the Senator’s work throughout all of Maryland counties on projects from building the purple line, to developing a living shoreline in Smith Island.

Xan Fishman, Senior Legislative Assistant, The Office of Congressman John Delaney, described Congressman Delaney’s Partnership to Build America Act of 2013, HR2084/S1957, a bi-partisan bill currently in Congress.  Described by Mr. Fishman as the most significant piece of bi-partisan economic legislation in Congress now, it create a infrastructure fund that would allow county governments to fund projects at low interest rates by guaranteeing municipal bonds.  The American Infrastructure Fund would provide bond guarantees and make loans to state and local governments and non-profit infrastructure providers for transportation, energy, water, communications, or educational facility infrastructure projects. Through changes to the global tax code, the bill would create an initial seed investment that would provide the fund with independence from yearly appropriations from Congress.

Michael Belarmino, Associate Legislative Director/Associate General Counsel, National Association of Counties shared nationwide data on funding for county roads.  NACo has conducted a state-by-state analysis of transportation funding and MAP-21, or the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act signed by President Obama in 2012. Under MAP-21, funding available for locally-owned bridges and Federal-aid highways decreased 30%. Mr. Belarmino shared information on how county officials can be involved in NACo’s work advocating to restore funding for infrastructure owned by counties in the next surface transportation bill through participation in NACo Steering Committees and NACo-MACo advocacy efforts.

County Executive Ike Leggett lead the discussion, opening with a statement about the importance of federal funding for transportation projects.  After asking Mr. Fishman about the potential success of Congressman Delaney’s bill, which Mr. Fishman thought was strong, he closed with compliments for the Congressman’s efforts and for all of the presenters.