PARTNERS for OPEN SPACE
At a January 20 briefing before the House Appropriations Committee on the Chesapeake Bay, representatives from Partners for Open Space defended the importance of Program Open Space (POS) to both the State and local governments. As part of their testimony, the representatives submitted a handout that summarized the program and made a series of recommendations to ensure future funding. The handout was prepared with input many of the concerned stakeholders, including MACo and county parks and recreation directors.
The handout detailed the history of POS, its recent funding challenges, the accomplishments of the program, and offered a series of recommendations designed to keep the program functioning and sustainable. From the handout:
A 1969 law created the real estate transfer tax that provides dedicated funding for land preservation. This formula funding is why the state of Maryland has been a national leader in preserving land and providing parks and recreation. Consistent funding levels for Program Open Space are essential to support key new land acquisitions, parks, active recreation facilities and farms. …
No Diversion – Do not divert dedicated Program Open Space funding to other purposes. By law the transfer tax is supposed to be dedicated to land conservation, park creation, historic preservation and agricultural preservation and should be used for those purposes.
No Cap – Legislators have proposed a $100 million cap on the program. This program has tremendous economic and environmental benefits and has significant ongoing need for funding.
Return to Cash Funding – Bond funding creates unnecessary competition for the state’s limited debt capacity.
Lockbox – As was done for the Transportation Trust Fund in the 2014 General Assembly session, “lockbox” legislation should be passed to create a dedicated trust fund to hold annual Program Open Space transfer tax revenue for its dedicated purpose. We must protect open space at a similar rate as acres being developed. This powerful vision will ensure that Maryland, despite its high density of population and ever increasing levels of development, will remain among the most attractive, scenic and desirable states in which to live and work on the Eastern seaboard, and will produce incredible economic advantages for Maryland.