County officials and staff presented MACo’s 2015 legislative priorities to the House Ways and Means Committee earlier this week urging support for additional transportation funding and greater flexibility in funding K-12 education. From MACo’s testimony,
Transportation Funding Restoration – For decades, local roadways were funded as one of the modes of transportation receiving 30% of Highway User Revenues (motor fuel tax and vehicle registration fees). The local share was slashed during the recession-driven budgets, and the former $555 million has been drastically cut back to $167 million – with a mere $26 million to be shared among 23 county governments (that figure used to be $282 million). The cumulative loss of local roadway investment is approximately $2.1 billion. With the recent expansion of transportation revenues, all avenues should be explored for local governments to again play a more significant role in the State’s transportation funding plan. Although additional funding was not provided in the Governor’s proposed budget, MACo urges State policymakers to take the necessary steps to restore Highway User Revenues and local roadway infrastructure this session.
Cooperation and Investment in Education – Local school boards and county governments share the responsibility for the education and well-being of schoolchildren. Counties provide almost half of all local system revenues, and education spending accounts for half of many county budgets. Yet strict funding laws mandate counties to fund education at the same level or greater from one year to the next. Local officials support education funding, but these funding mandates restrict their ability to respond to local budget challenges, and deter additional investment in education. Working together with education advocates, MACo would like to develop an approach to encourage county support for school investments outside of perpetual mandates and discover budget efficiencies.
MACo’s other two initiatives focus on combatting the growing drug problem confronting our State and the pretrial system.
MACo was represented by Washington County Commissioner John Barr, Howard County Assistant Finance Director Linda Watts, MACo Legislative Director Andrea Mansfield and MACo Policy Analyst Robin Clark. Maryland Municipal League (MML) representatives spoke after the MACo panel.