Marylanders To Vote On Transportation “Lockbox” In November Election

Maryland voters will have the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment during this November election to create a “lockbox” for State transportation funding.  This “lockbox” would ensure that revenue going into the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) is used only for transportation purposes. As reported by the Hagerstown Herald-Mail,

If the measure is approved by Maryland voters, it would prevent money from the transportation fund being transferred to the state’s general fund or any non-transportation projects unless the governor declares a fiscal emergency and the Maryland General Assembly passes legislation approving such a transfer by a three-fifths majority in the House and the Senate.

TTF revenues are mostly generated through the state’s gas tax and vehicle titling tax, and statute requires a portion of these revenues be divided between the state and local governments through the Gasoline and Motor Vehicle Revenue Account. These shared funds are known as Highway User Revenues (HUR). To address budget shortfalls over the past several years, the State has transferred funds from the TTF, including HUR, to the State’s General Fund.

Chuck Brown, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said about $640.1 million had been transferred from the transportation fund to the general fund since fiscal year 1984.

All of that money and a little more — about $656.3 million — has been paid back, including $55 million in fiscal year 2010 and $89 million in fiscal year 2011.

However, funds taken from local governments, have not been paid back.

More than a billion dollars that were part of the “local portion” of Highway User Revenue funds were transferred to the general fund from fiscal years 2003 to 2011, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. That money has not been paid back.

Washington County received $7.66 million in fiscal year 2009 as Highway User Revenue funds. The next fiscal year, as the recession took hold, the county received $418,693, a drop of 94.5 percent. In fiscal year 2014, the county received $692,313 in highway funds.

James Jenkins, a Washington County spokesman, said that the county eliminated $40 million from its road overlay program due to highway user revenue reductions.

This ballot measure has no effect on local highway user revenues, but it would add additional protections for state projects being constructed in local jurisdictions.

Additional coverage of this issue can be found on Conduit Street.