Senate President Miller Proposes New Funding Approach
February 8, 2013 |
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.