The Senate Budget and Taxation Public Safety, Transportation and Environment Subcommittee voted to reduce the Governor’s proposal to provide transportation capital grants to counties and Baltimore City. Counties’ share was reduced from $27.4 million to $12.8 million. This includes $4 million of capital grants which counties have received since fiscal 2016. Baltimore City’s share was reduced from $5.5 million to $3.7 million, and municipalities’ share remained at $20.1 million.
The Governor’s budget included $53 million in capital grants for counties, municipalities and Baltimore City, to be distributed above the formulaic appropriation of highway user revenues. This includes $5.5 million to Baltimore City and $27.4 million to counties, distributed according to the same formula used to distribute highway user revenues, based on road mileage and vehicle registrations. This in effect increases the highway user split by 0.3 percent for Baltimore City and 1.5 percent for all other counties.
The Department of Legislative Services (DLS), in its budget analysis, recommended that the Budget Committees flat-fund the capital grants which local governments received the prior two years, in the amounts of $4 million to counties, $2 million to Baltimore City and $19 million to municipalities. They further recommended using the Governor’s proposed additional capital grant money to backfill a proposed cut to traditional/statutory formulaic highway user revenues to counties, and diverting those funds to fill gaps in the General Fund supporting the Maryland State Police.
The House voted down the DLS recommendation and instead fully supported the Governor’s proposal to provide $53 million in capital grants to local governments.
The Senate subcommittee also voted down the DLS recommendation for the fund swap. However, they reduced the funds as proposed by the Governor and voted by the House, as indicated above and in the chart below.
Once the full Senate votes on the budget, the Senate and House will both send members to Conference Committee to reconcile the terms of both chambers’ budgets which differ, include these provisions for local transportation aid. The Conference Committee will decide how much money to provide in capital grants – and they can decide to accept the Governor’s and House proposal, the Senate proposal, or determine their own portions.
Last year, both houses agreed to the Governor’s proposal to provide capital grants of $53.6 million to local governments over and above the traditional highway user formula, including an additional $23.7 million to counties above the $4 million received the prior year. In Conference Committee, however, the grants were reduced to flat fund the “hold harmless” amounts received the prior year.