House Budget Chair: We’re Working on Highway User

house-brfa-testimonyHouse Appropriations Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh offered words of encouragement on MACo’s top legislative priority – pledging “we will promise an effort” to “give you some stability” in local road funding. She indicated that a group of legislators were meeting regularly on this specific issue.

The Chair’s comments came amidst a MACo panel’s testimony presentation on the state budget plan – where local road funding was emphasized. She emphasized her optimism that some change, this year, could be sought to provide more certainty for local governments in that regard. “We understand you need…some kind of assurance,” she said, adding “we’re going to promise an effort to give you a more stable picture going forward.”

A MACo panel was testifying before the Appropriations Committee and several representatives from other committees during the all-encompassing Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act, or BRFA, HB 152. That bill effects multiple statutory changes needed to balance the FY 2018 budget plan, and in some cases, future year spending as well.

MACo Board member and Allegany County Commissioner Bill Valentine, Charles County Chief of Treasury Eric Jackson, and MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson all testified on the bill – indicating reservations with specific components of the bill. MACo’s written testimony presented more detailed background.

Commissioner Valentine shared the realities of maintaining a road budget on less than 10% of historic funding levels, noting “our highway user funds could only blacktop three miles of roads a year.” Mr. Jackson spoke against the proposed shifting of costs of state assessment functions, warning that the system’s objectivity could be compromised, and stressing the imbalance of counties paying to support the Department’s operations with no oversight or management authority.

Mr. Sanderson urged the members to reject the permanent cutbacks on a wide range of formula funding, noting that without an annual budget-balancing proposal (like the BRFA) or stand-alone legislation to change specific formulas, “there wouldn’t be any real opportunity for public input… with our executive budget system.”

From MACo’s testimony:

MACo does not object to a reasonable local component of a state budget plan, and counties are willing to represent a fair share of needed cutbacks. Inordinate and unwise cost shifts, however, are a central part of county objections.

MACo’s testimony, as is often the case, closes by pledging to work with the legislators as they assemble their fiscal plan for FY 2018 and onward in the weeks ahead.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties