House Ways & Means Passes Major Transportation Funding Bill
March 19, 2013 |
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.
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