On February 23, 2016, MACo Research Director Robin Clark Eilenberg testified in support of HB 1464, Program Open Space Trust Fund Act of 2016, to the House Appropriations Committee. The bill would move State and local Program Open Space (POS) and other important land preservation programs back to full funding through the Maryland transfer tax distribution formula.
From the MACo testimony,
For almost every year since FY 2002, funds that would normally flow through the transfer tax distribution formula to POS and land preservation programs such as the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Fund, Rural Legacy Program, and the Heritage Conservation Fund have instead been transferred into the General Fund. While some of this funding was replaced through General Obligation bonds, these programs have still seen a net loss of nearly $670 million in funding since FY 2002.
HB 1464 would fully restore that funding going forward and require that any future funding diversions after FY 2017 be subject to a repayment plan over three years. The need for local POS funding is well documented – Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City have identified over $1.8 billion in need- based priorities for land acquisition and the development and rehabilitation of park and recreation facilities.
Furthermore, HB 1464 reflects the recommendations of the Land Preservation Workgroup, which was formed at the direction of the General Assembly and met throughout the interim of 2015.
Both MACo and the Maryland Association of County Park and Recreation Administrators (MACPRA) have consistently supported the funding restoration of local-side POS. HB 1464 accomplishes this and is consistent with the recommendations of the Land Preservation Workgroup.
An identical cross-filed bill, SB 927, will be heard on March 9 in the Senate.
For more on 2016 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.