Local Officials Make Push For Transportation Funding During Senate Briefing

County officials had their first opportunity to discuss the lack of additional transportation dollars in Governor Hogan’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget during a briefing before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee earlier this week. As reported by MarylandReporter.com,

The top priority for county and municipal officials in Maryland is the restoration of highway user revenues used to build local roads, but Gov. Larry Hogan is actually giving them $16 million less in his budget, despite promises to restore it during his campaign.

“We’re basically kicking the can down the road, ultimately it will come full circle and become an even a bigger problem,” Washington County Commissioner John Barr of the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) warned the Budget and Taxation Committee at briefing on Tuesday. The reduced funds counties and towns are given only help them limp along until funds for essential repairs are raised. Thus, they say they are wasting money on band-aid fixes that will only last a short time.

In addition to Commissioner Barr, MACo was represented by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, Queen Anne’s Finance Director and Budget Officer Jon Seeman, and MACo Legislative Director Andrea Mansfield. Maryland Municipal League (MML) representatives spoke after the MACo panel.

Since 2010, the former $555 million budget given to local jurisdiction for local transportation funding, “has been drastically cut back to $167 million,” said Barr. “Prior to Fiscal Year 2010 local governments received 30% of highway user revenues, now funds received have dropped to 9.5%. The cumulative loss of roadway investment across our state Maryland, is approximately $2.1 billion in the past five years.”

Jonathan Seeman, Budget and Finance Director of Queen Anne’s County, found that “even with a slightly improved climate, we’re still behind and playing catch-up.” Hogan’s budget advisers are worried about the state’s rising debt service to pay off its bonds. Now, with the loss of highway user revenue, local jurisdictions are racking up their own debt to pay for projects that used to be funded by the state, said Seeman. “Our debt has limits too.”

MACo and MML were briefing the committee on their 2015 legislative priorities. MACo’s 2015 Legislative Initiatives can be found on Conduit Street.

MACo’s testimony to the Senate Budget and Taxation