Proposed Budget Language Limits Flexibility With Transportation Funds

The Department of Legislative Services has recommended budget language that would restrict funds for local transportation aid and transit capital projects for those purposes unless otherwise specified in the budget or a supplemental appropriation. The rationale for this recommendation is explained in the Maryland Department of Transportation Fiscal 2016 Budget Overview.

The TTF (Transportation Trust Fund) forecast and the CTP (Consolidated Transportation Program) submitted as required with the Maryland operating budget were developed by the previous Administration. With submission deadlines leaving little time for meaningful changes to be made, the new Administration allowed MDOT to submit the documents “as is.” Consequently, the budget and the capital program about which the budget committees and subsequently the General Assembly will be making decisions do not reflect the new Administration’s priorities, which could have major effects on how funds are expended and which capital projects continue to move ahead. Policy positions stated during the gubernatorial campaign – restoration of HUR funding to local governments, the level and timing of spending on mass transit (specifically the Red and Purple Lines), etc., – could have a significant impact on transportation spending if implemented during fiscal 2016.

The Department raised concerns with this recommended language,

These are important issues for which the Administration has had limited time to analyze. In order to address the needs of the citizens, the Department requires the flexibility to actively and responsibly manage its resources.

In addition to recommending the budget language to restrict the funds, the Department was also asked to brief the budget committees “on the intended manner and timing of notifications to the legislature and the public of changes in policies or in the capital program which will have significant fiscal or budgetary impacts.”

The Department responded,

The new administration will be examining the current transportation program and may change some aspects of the Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP). The largest potential changes and policy decisions will be made public as part of ongoing budget discussions throughout the 2015 General Assembly Session and as part of the draft CTP development process this summer.

The Department’s full response can be found here.