Howard County Executive and MACo President Calvin Ball will represent MACo on the Maryland Commission on Transportation Revenue and Infrastructure Needs, which will review and make recommendations to improve existing transportation revenues, investment decisions, and more.
The 31-member Commission, chaired by Frank J. Principe Jr., will review, evaluate and make recommendations concerning the prioritization and funding of transportation projects. The first meeting is set for August 24 in Annapolis.
The Commission includes legislators; representatives from local government, transportation, industry, business, labor, and environmental organizations; and several members of the Moore Administration, including Transportation Secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld, Budget and Management Secretary Helene Grady, Commerce Secretary Kevin Anderson, and Planning Secretary Rebecca Flora.
In consultation with Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson and Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, Governor Wes Moore named Mr. Principe, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Strategic Partnerships at the University of Maryland Global Campus, to chair the Commission. His decades of transportation, planning, and revenue management experience include serving as Maryland Department of Transportation Chief of Staff (2010-2015) and Director of Government Affairs for Baltimore County (2003-2010).
Governor Moore, Senate President Ferguson, and House Speaker Jones selected committee members. (See the full roster here.) The Maryland Department of Transportation and the Department of Legislative Services will provide staff support to the Commission.
As directed by the General Assembly, the Commission will review, evaluate and make recommendations concerning:
- The current State funding sources and structure of the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund, including major trends in revenue, including the general funds;
- the methods other states are employing to fund state transportation operating and capital programs, including toll revenue, vehicle-miles-traveled fees, fees on zero-emission vehicles, and non-transportation-related revenue options;
- short-and long-term construction and maintenance funding needs for transit, highway, pedestrian, bicycle, heavy rail, shipping, air travel, and other transportation needs;
- options for public-private partnerships, including partnerships with local governments, to meet transportation funding needs, including funding options;
- changes in transportation technology and trends that will impact transportation infrastructure needs and costs to the State;
- existing practices for prioritizing project funding and opportunities to better prioritize needs, including local and legislative priorities;
- the structure of regional transportation authorities and the ability of these authorities to meet transportation needs in various regions of the State;
- options for sustainable, long-term revenue sources for transportation; and
- opportunities for improving the Maryland Department of Transportation’s ability and capacity to deliver significant capital projects.
The Commission will meet throughout 2023 and 2024. Meetings will be livestreamed on the Maryland General Assembly’s website.
An interim commission report is due to the Governor and legislature on or before January 1, 2024, with a final report on or before January 1, 2025. Dates, times, agendas, updates, and other information will be posted on the commission website at www.mdot.maryland.gov/commission.
Highway User Revenues
For decades, the State supported a balanced means to maintain its transportation infrastructure. The bulk of transportation revenues – mainly motor fuel and vehicle titling taxes – have been split between the State (for its consolidated Transportation Trust Fund, serving multiple modes) and local governments (who own and maintain roughly 5 of every six road miles across the state). For decades, this split served all parties effectively.
The State faced a mid-year budget crisis during the depths of the “great recession” in 2009. As a result, the Board of Public Works adopted a 90% reduction of the local distributions of these Highway User Revenues and a roughly 40% reduction to Baltimore City’s allocation (the largest by far to any jurisdiction). Since then, recession-driven cutbacks in many service areas have been fully or largely restored. This is not the case with Highway User Revenues – they remain far behind historic levels, even after the State has enacted a substantial transportation revenue increase.
Unfortunately, the Great Recession HUR cuts, coupled with new obligations toward school funding, leave little room for additional investment in roads, not to mention counties are preparing for an uncertain economic future and talk of recession.
In addition, the push toward electric vehicles will likely exacerbate the issue. Cars and trucks use less gas or run on electricity, shrinking funds for roads and bridges. But electric vehicles still contribute to road wear and tear, so states and local governments need money to maintain them.
State policymakers are considering other ways to pay for Maryland’s transportation infrastructure. One growing policy trend is applying a separate registration fee for hybrid or electric vehicles.
However, special registration fees are not the only mechanism to lower gas tax revenue and promote equity among drivers. After exploring several options, such as a tire tax, a battery tax, and expanding gas taxes and registration fees, Oregon settled on a per-mile charge as the fairest and most accurate way to pay for state roads and bridges.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.