Senate Chair Provides Encouragement At #LIFT4MD Hearing

MACo Associate Director Barbara Zektick joined several local elected officials, public works officials and county engineers in support of its initiative bill, Senate Bill 586, Local Infrastructure Fast Track for Maryland in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

At the conclusion of the hearing, regarding restoration of highway user revenues, Chair Edward Kasemeyer provided encouragement. He stated that “we understand your plight.” Regardless of what funding solution they determined, he said, “we need to put something into play that is consistent,” and that “feels good.” 

MACo’s panels included:

  • Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy
  • Anne Arundel County Councilmember Jerry Walker
  • Prince George’s County Councilmember Todd Turner
  • Frederick County Government Affairs and Policy Director Roger Wilson
  • Prince George’s County Deputy Director of Transportation and Public Works Martin Harris
  • County Engineers Association of MD 1st Vice President, Queen Anne’s Public Works Director Todd Mohn
  • Baltimore City Department of Transportation Legislative Director Patrick Fleming
  • Jim McCormick, Director of Information Technology, Caroline County

Martin Harris testified:

The good thing about this bill is that it is truly a lift. We have all suffered from the cuts to these funds, and we should all benefit from their restoration.

County Executive McCarthy testified that

Cecil County received less than $700,000 in highway user revenues this year. That is not even enough money to pave three of our 600 miles of roads.

Todd Mohn testified that his county:

…received $4.7 million in HUR in FY 2009. This amount was reduced to less than $0.5 million beginning in FY 2010. The County was forced to use prior year fund balance (one-time money) to fund Roads Operating costs in FY 2010 ($4.8 million). The bond rating agencies reacted by lowering the county’s rating to “negative outlook.”

The County then instituted furloughs, a reduction in force and downsized the entire County government through an early retirement program in FY 2011. The Commissioners raised the property tax rate by 8 cents and raised our piggy-back tax rate to the maximum 3.2-percent.

Jim McCormick testified to the important component of the bill which requests a study of state of local infrastructure, stressing the importance of ensuring all of Caroline County has broadband access.

From MACo’s testimony:

MACo also strongly supports efforts to study the State of Local Infrastructure in Maryland. Local governments are responsible for a number of infrastructure modes in addition to roads and bridges which require reliable investment moving forward. Maryland local jurisdictions oversee 469 community water systems that serve from 25 to 1.8 million customers each … [and] are eager to update their 9-1-1 call centers via “Next Generation 9-1-1” so that they can process voice, text and video calls from any communications device via Internet Protocol-based networks …

Moreover, the Board of Public Works and General Assembly continue to express trepidation over the state of school maintenance year after year, and an inventory into the state of affairs could shed light on how to address these shared costs moving forward. Inventorying all of these issues objectively at a high level would allow for insight into how to prioritize a wide range of important needs for infrastructure investment moving forward.