As previously reported on Conduit Street, a Land Preservation Workgroup has been meeting to make recommendations regarding land preservation and easement acquisition programs funded through the State transfer tax, including Program Open Space (POS), Rural Legacy, the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation, and the Maryland Environmental Trust. At the Workgroup’s August 26, 2015, meeting representatives for each of the programs uniformly argued against changing the transfer tax funding formula, noting that the programs were successful and served distinct purposes.
Chesapeake Bay Commission Executive Director Ann Swanson also offered a proposal calling for an end to the “raiding” of state and local POS funding by FY 2018 and a return to using General Funds derived from the transfer tax rather than general obligation bonds to support POS. The proposal acknowledged the important role POS plays in both land acquisition and the construction of recreational facilities.
The proposal would also eliminate any POS funding repayments that were promised prior to FY 2016 but not yet made, except for a $90 million repayment to stateside POS that is statutorily mandated. There was some discussion of allowing the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to use some or all of the $90 million for critical park maintenance. Attending Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton and Delegate Tawanna Gaines expressed support for the proposal. MACo and Maryland Association of County Park and Recreation Administrators (MACPRA) representative John Byrd also supported the proposal.
Based on the Workgroup’s discussion, DNR will begin writing a draft set of recommendations that will be discussed at the Workgroup’s next scheduled meeting on October 6.
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