Washington Post Editorial, Annapolis Press Conference, Add to Question 1 Momentum as Election Reaches the Home Stretch

Today was a big day:  SMTA released a letter signed by three former Maryland Secretaries of Transportation — David Winstead, John Porcari and Robert Flanagan — endorsing the Lock-box amendment.  The three former Secretaries served both Republican and Democratic former Governors, reflecting the broad support for Question 1 from across the political spectrum. Read more.

Supporters of Question 1 in Maryland — the Transportation “Lock-box” amendment — were cheered by a strong editorial in Sunday’s Washington Post that also called on voters to vote FOR Question 1.  See the Washington Post Endorsement here.

Then, at a rally in Annapolis, supporters gathered to highlight the strong bi-partisan support Question 1 has attracted from all parts of the State.  Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch joined SMTA and other representatives from the Coalition to Protect Maryland’s Transportation Fund in calling on Maryland voters in both parties to vote FOR Question 1.

This is it:  Polls open tomorrow, Tuesday, November 4th, from 7:00 am until 8:00 pm.  Don’t miss this opportunity to get out and vote to protect our ability to invest in Maryland’s future transportation needs.  This is a critical moment for all Marylanders, for a brighter economic future, reduced congestion, improved safety and better quality-of-life for all citizens of the Free State.

Get out and vote!  Vote FOR Question 1!

 

 

The Baltimore Sun website now features an excellent column submitted by Donald Fry, President of the Greater Baltimore Committee, endorsing the passage of Question 1 on this year’s Maryland ballot.  Question 1 would enact a constitutional amendment prohibiting the transfer of dedicated transportation funds for non-transportation purposes, except under emergency circumstances.  SMTA strongly supports passage of Question 1, and welcomes the support from other leading voices from all over Maryland.

Here is the link to the Baltimore Sun article, which should appear tomorrow in the print edition.

Remember, early voting begins on October 23rd this year, and election day is November 4th.  So please mark your calendar and get out and vote FOR Question 1!

 

 

Maryland voters will have a chance on Tuesday, November 4th, to cast their votes on “Question 1”, which would amend the Maryland Constitution to create a “lock box” provision to protect dedicated transportation funds from being diverted to other uses.  SMTA urges Maryland voters to vote FOR QUESTION ONE, as this will make it much harder for future state leaders to “raid” the Transportation Trust Fund, as Governors from both major parties have repeatedly done in the past.

A broad coalition of Marylanders is coming together to support Question 1, and a new website has been created at:  VoteForMD1.com.

We need your support to restore the “trust” the Maryland’s Transportation Trust Fund, and make sure the funds we collect from fuel taxes and vehicle fees go to pay for critical investments in the road and transit systems on which we all depend.  For job creation, better transit options, reduced congestion and more predictable funding levels for future projects, voters should support this amendment and VOTE FOR QUESTION ONE.

Historic Vote Paves the Way for Next Round of Key Road and Transit Projects 

SMTA’s Top-Priority Bill – HB1515 Passes Senate – Heads to Governor O’Malley for Signature:  Today the Maryland State Senate voted 27 – 20 to approve $4.4 billion in new transportation funding, adding roughly $800 million a year to the state’s severely depleted Transportation Trust Fund when fully implemented.  The State Department of Transportation has provided this summary of the bill. 

What this means:

  • 57,000 new jobs for Maryland in construction and related industries
  • State funding for major new transit projects like the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway will now be available, so these projects can move to construction within the next few years
  • Dozens of planned road, bridge and intersection improvements – none of which would be possible without this legislation – can now move to construction in the near term (Watkins Mill interchange, Georgia Avenue & Randolph Rd, Brookeville bypass, completing Mid-County Highway, several corridor improvement projects in Prince George’s County, and much more)

This is a MAJOR VICTORY for everyone who is sick of traffic and a major boost for our economy — which is why this legislation enjoyed such strong support from leading business groups and transportation advocates in the State.

 

“Lock Box” Provision to Protect the Transportation Trust Fund SB829 Passes in State Senate — Moves on to House of Delegates for Final Approval

SMTA’s other top-priority bill for this session won final passage in the Senate in a 45 – 2 vote.  Senate Bill 829 would call for a constitutional amendment to require a 3/5 vote by both Houses of the Maryland General Assembly in order to divert any future funding from the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) to other uses — a repeated problem in Maryland.  The constitutional amendment must be approved by voters before it goes into effect but enjoys overwhelming public support.  It would help restore the “Trust” in our Transportation Trust Fund and boost support for the new funding plan.

Please visit our Take Action page to express your support for more jobs, better transit options and less traffic.

Sign our On-Line Petition to “Invest Now” in a Better Transportation System!

 

Today the Maryland General Assembly will vote on the first major transportation funding package since the state gas tax was last adjusted for inflation in 1992. 

The House bill (HB 1515) would retain the current 23.5-cent gas tax at current levels, but index it to inflation, and also apply a 1% sales tax to gasoline sales at the wholesale level, which would increase to 2% by January 2015, with further increases possible depending on federal action on an expected move in Congress to impose an national internet sales tax.  If Congress enacts such a tax, Maryland would dedicate a portion of the proceeds to transportation.  If not, the wholesale sales tax would be increased accordingly.

When fully implemented, the House package brings in a good portion of the $880 million per year the recent Blue Ribbon Commission found Maryland needs to invest now, to begin making up for decades of under-investment in its crowded and deteriorating transportation infrastructure.   It would provide enough funding to meet maintenance needs and build major new Washington-area transit projects like the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway — which would not be possible without this legislation.

This is a must-pass bill and now is the time for action.  While it contains some language to safeguard dedicated transportation funds from being diverted in the future, the language in this bill probably dos not go far enough, so we are urging the Senate to look at strengthening this provision and continue to call for a separate initiative to create a consititutional “lock-box” on Transportation Trust Fund.   

But area business owners and major employers, who have been calling on Maryland officials to boost transportation funding for more than a decade, and frustrated motorists and transit riders wasting time and money in one of our nation’s most congested regions, cannot afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  This is a good package – an urgently needed one – and will get our economy back on track more effectively than any other action the legislature could even consider taking this year. 

Please visit our Take Action page to express your support for more jobs, better transit options and less traffic.

Annapolis, MD — On Monday in the Maryland General Assembly, the House Ways & Means Committee took an historic first step toward addressing Maryland’s long-neglected crisis in transportation funding with passage of the first major transportation funding package since the state gas tax was last adjusted for inflation in 1992. 

The Ways & Means Committee voted 15-4 in favor of a package of new revenues similar to recent proposals by key Democratic leaders in Maryland that have won broad support among statewide business leaders and transportation advocates.  The House bill (HB 1515) differs from the original package introduced by Governor O’Malley and House and Senate leaders in key respects:  It would apply only a 1% sales tax at the wholesale level (instead of 2% in the original plan). That would increase to 2% by January 2015 (instead of 4% by July 2014 in the original) and it retains the current 23.5-cent gas tax at the retail level and indexes it to inflation — a very good idea given that the State’s previous failure to do so is the main reason we are in this mess today. 

It adds some new protection against future diversion of transportation funds to other uses, by requiring a supermajority committee vote and requiring repayment from the General Fund within 5 years in all cases (which is better than nothing), but this provision can and should be strengthened (to also require unanimous approval by the Board of Public Works, for example).   

Once fully implemented, the total revenues raised would be somewhat less than the roughly $800 million per year the Governor proposed, which is a cause for concern.  The actual need is for at least $880 million a year in new revenue, but this still would be by far the largest boost in transportation investment since 1992.  It would be enough to allow the State to keep up with future operating and maintenance needs, invest in new capacity on crowded roads, repair failing bridges, and provide urgently needed funds for major new Washington-area transit projects like the Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway — none of which would be possible without this legislation.

As we have pointed out before — every 10-cent increase in the gas tax translates to about $90 per motorist, per year, yet each of us is literally throwing away an average of more than $2,100 per year due to wasted fuel and other added costs directly attributable to our nations-worst congestion and poor road conditions.  This package is a wise investment for taxpayers and for our future economic competitiveness as well.  It will almost immediately create over 40,000 new construction jobs in our state, not to mention hundreds of millions more in economic growth and private-sector investment it will foster year after year.  It is clearly the right step to take. 

Please visit our Take Action page to express your support for better transit options and less traffic.

For more, see recent stories in the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post.

It has been a long time coming, but perhaps it was worth the wait.  Tonight, Maryland’s three top State leaders:  Governor Martin O’Malley, State Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, and House Speaker Michael Busch put forward a bold new funding package to support Maryland’s decaying transportation network.

It could not have come at a better time. 

With tens of thousands of jobs in Maryland’s ailing construction industry literally hanging in the balance, and recent studies once again putting the national capital area at the top of America’s most severely congested communities, we are finally seeing signs that State leaders have come up with a plan that is big enough, bold enough, and smart enough to get the job done. 

The legislature will have lots to say in the coming days as this proposal moves through the committees and to the floor, but what was introduced today would do several things:

  1. Provide over $800 million a year in new transportation funds when fully phased in — enough to fill most of the shortfall identified by the recent Blue Ribbon Commission — and enough to fund the Purple Line, Baltimore’s Red Line, the Corridor Cities Transitway, Watkins Mill interchange, improvements to I-270, and hundreds of bridges, roads and transit improvements around the state.
  2. Put some 44,000 Marylanders back to work in the construction trades over the next 5 years — a huge and desperately-needed boost for our sagging “post-sequester” economy.
  3. Protect the funds in the Transportation Trust Fund from future raids.
  4. Save Maryland motorists time and money – the cost to the average consumer is far less than the nearly $2,200 each one of us wastes every year due to traffic congestion.

Read more:  http://www.governor.maryland.gov/costofinaction.asp

Visit our “Take Action” page now to make your voice heard!  Our leaders have listened to local business leaders, civic leaders, transit advocates and motorist who have been crying out for action for a decade or more.  Now it’s up to us to show our support.  Sign our petition for transportation investment today!

An End to all Road (and Transit) Work in Our Future?

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller testified in Annapolis today in favor of a far-reaching package of transportation investment measures at a hearing before the Senate Budget & Tax Committee.  Calling the situation a “crisis” not a “problem” and proposing a menu of funding options for lawmakers to consider, President Miller did the one thing we’ve seen too little of from state leaders in recent years — a willingness to step up and LEAD.  Bravo!

Now let’s see what the rest of our leaders are made of.  As the Senate President pointed out today, this is a matter of economic survival for Maryland, especially in light of the likely passage of a major new funding package in Virginia this week.  The clock is ticking…

Sign our petition right now if you are tired of congestion, poor road conditions, failing bridges and lack of new transit options.  We can do something about it with your help.

For more on today’s hearing, see today’s post in the Baltimore Sun.

The 2013 Maryland General Assembly will soon take up critical transportation funding legislation.  Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has introduced two bills:

Take Action:  Hearings are scheduled on both bills and related legislation on February 20, 2013, at 2:00 pm, before the Senate Budget & Tax Committee in Annapolis.  SMTA members are invited to testify in person and show your support, or to weigh in now on-line and urge your legislators and the Governor to support these needed investments to keep our economy moving sign our petition !

As reported in the Montgomery Gazette this week, Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller has stepped up to the plate with a major new funding proposal for the Maryland General Assembly to consider during its 2013 legislative session.  On an issue where leadership has been decidedly lacking for years, Miller should be commended for breathing new life into efforts to boost transportation investment.

His proposal would include a 5-cent increase in the Maryland gas tax, but give Counties the ability to enact it on a countywide basis and have the funds dedicated to projects within their own County.  However, if a County fails to enact the increase the state within 3 years, the State would step in and impose the same 5-cent increase, but the proceeds would flow into the State Transportation Trust Fund instead.  This provides a strong incentive for local leaders to adopt the funding mechanism, of course, and it may face an uphill battle in Annapolis.  However, after years of state leaders shirking their responsibilities, session after session, maybe a new approach is what is needed to break the gridlock.

By the way, a 5-cent increase does not even restore the gas tax to 1992 levels.  In real terms, since it is not indexed to inflation, the gas tax has lost 60% of its value and is at the lowest effective rate in decades — which is why the State will soon run out of funds even for vital safety and maintenance needs (forget about the public’s number-one concern in this part of the state — traffic congestion). 

Lack of funding means no new projects to cut congestion delays, more wasted fuel and precious time frittered away in snarled traffic, and major job losses and declining general fund revenues for the state.  When one weighs the annual cost of a 5-cent gas tax increase to the average resident (about $45/year) against what the average resident currently wastes every year due to congestion (about $1,500 per resident per year) the choice is OBVIOUS. 

Miller deserves support for showing the courage to lead.  Now it’s up to the legislature.