Highway User Bill in the Fast Lane – “Deal” Locks in 5yr Funding Increase

A House Committee has amended and is advancing HB 807, legislation to increase state funding for locally-maintained roads and bridges. The five-year plan would set new, higher levels of funding for county and municipal roadways beginning in FY 2020. Signs point to the bill marking a negotiated “deal” including legislative leaders from both chambers, clearing its path to passage this session.

Both MACo and MML have made restoring Highway User Revenues a top priority for years, as recession-driven cuts left local governments with a fraction of historic funding levels of state transportation revenues.

The amended version of HB 807 would roughly double the funding for county governments in each year — to approximately $58 million each year. The funding would be designated as “capital transportation grants” rather than simple statutory distributions (the effect of this terminology change on local governments is unclear, but may be negligible). The new funding level for counties would represent 3.2% of the funds from the Highway User Revenues, coming from taxes on motor fuels, vehicles, and other transportation-related sources — an increase from 1.5% today (through a combination of traditional HUR and capital grants).

The municipal share would be adjusted to 2.0% of the total, and the share for Baltimore City (which has the unique responsibility of maintaining nearly all state roads within its boundaries) is adjusted to 8.3%.

In the days ahead, the House floor debate and public discussion on the legislation may reshape the debate over local road funding for the future. Conduit Street will continue to follow this top priority local issue.