In the last week of the Maryland General Assembly, both the Maryland House and Senate narrowly voted to override Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of legislation (HB 1013), dubbed the “Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016,” establishing new measures by which the Department of Transportation (MDOT) is required to score future major capital projects. SMTA has long been a vocal advocate for using objective performance criteria to evaluate and make funding decisions on major transportation projects across all modes. However, we testified against this bill for several reasons. Most importantly, the particular standards and performance metrics that were originally included in the bill were badly flawed, arbitrary and did not even address the number-one issue to Maryland voters when it comes to transportation — traffic congestion.
Second, the state already uses a wide range of transportation performance standards for use in making funding and prioritization decisions, and has an extremely transparent process in which County priority letters are posted online, along with information on every major project, and MDOT officials come out to a series of public meetings in all 24 local jurisdictions, known as the annual “road show,” to go over their draft capital program, and solicit input and feedback from local officials and the public before the plan is finalized (and also available online for anyone to see). This bill was meant to address a problem that does not exist, in our view at least.
For MDOT to develop standards, based on knowledgeable input from transportation professionals, with lots of public input along the way, is one thing. For the General Assembly to legislate arbitrary standards that make no sense to transportation experts or voters, we thought would be counterproductive. MDOT officials and Governor Hogan agreed with that assessment but the General Assembly did not.
The good news is, the legislation was significantly amended to address the most glaring flaws in the standards, and the Department now has more flexibility in implementing this new mandate. The bad news is, the legislature made the mistake of overriding a veto it should have let stand. This bill was not needed in the first place, was extremely poorly drafted initially, and will end up costing taxpayers for lots of extra work by MDOT staff that will not produce any significant improvement in either transparency or performance.
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.
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.
Governor Martin O’Malley’s key transportation funding bills will be heard by three key committees in the Maryland State Senate and House of Delegates this week in Annapolis. Two identical companion bills, titled the “Maryland Transportation Financing and Infrastructure Investment Act of 2012″ (SB971 and HB1302) are scheduled to come before the Senate Budget & Tax Committee, and the House Ways & Means and Environmental Matters committees, all on March 14th.
Both bills add $613 million in desperately needed funding to restore Maryland’s decimated transportation capital investment program. After going without a significant increase since 1992 in the motor fuel taxes (the primary source of transportation funding in Maryland), critically important projects including the Corridor Cities Transitway, Purple Line, Baltimore Red Line, and dozens of major road and intersection improvements throughout the Washington suburbs and around the state CANNOT BE BUILT unless the legislature approves new funding of at least this magnitude.
The bill also includes a “lock-box” type mechanism to prevent future diversions of transportation dollars to unrelated purposes (to avoid future raids), and a number of other provisions.
The bills would apply Maryland’s 6% sales tax to gasoline sales at the wholesale level, phased in over three years. The cost for the average household comes out to under $30 per year in the first year; about $55 the second; and about $85 when fully implemented. Even at the full price, it is a small price to pay for reducing the $2,300 the average motorist in our state is currently throwing away in wasted gas and added wear-and-tear from sitting in the nation’s worst congestion.
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has come out with his long-anticipated proposal to increase transportation investment, and his proposal is consistent with a recently-issued Blue Ribbon Panel report that highlighted Maryland’s gaping shortfall in transportation funding.
O’Malley’s proposal would raise an additional $613 million a year in dedicated transportation funds, by applying Maryland’s existing 6% sales tax to gasoline sales at the wholesale level. These new funds will be used for critical local projects in our area: The Purple Line, Corridor Cities Transitway, improvements to Route 1, 4 and 5, and a long list of other badly needed improvements, none of which will ever happen without a new infusion of funding. The increase will be phased in, 2% per year, over three years and the total cost to the average driver of the entire increase is roughly $90 per year.
The average Marylander is currently wasting up to $2,300 per year in wasted fuel and wear and tear directly related to our worst-in-the-nation congestion.
The Governor’s plan includes important provisions to protect the Transportation Trust Fund from future raids, which is also good news for transportation advocates in the Free State. This is critical to winning support for the package.
Legislation is expected to be introduced soon, and as soon as it is released, we will post more details as the actual bill begins to move through the General Assembly.
This is an important step forward. Please visit our Action page today, and send a message to your representatives to “Invest Now!” for more jobs and a better future for all of us.
As reported in the Washington Post, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley recently renewed his commitment to introduce a transportation funding bill in this session of the Maryland General Assembly. This is very good news. Transportation advocates have been pushing for an increase of $850 million or more, consistent with the recommendations of an earlier Blue Ribbon Commission report for several years, to address the precipitous decline in transportation investment that has occurred over the past two decades.
Governor O’Malley correctly assessed the situation when he said: “Doing nothing doesn’t seem to be a responsible option.” He is absolutely right and Maryland legislators need to acknowledge this fact and act this year. There will not be another opportunity, with statewide elections looming in 2014.
Maryland’s transportation system is in critical condition right now, with deteriorating roads and bridges and the nation’s worst traffic congestion in the Washington region. Failure to act this legislative session will bring dire consequences for our local economy. Without a major infusion of capital funding, traffic conditions will soon reach a breaking point. Given the continued weakness in the state’s economy, and the inability to attract new jobs to key areas in the state without providing additional transportation capacity, this is the single most important thing on the legislature’s agenda this year because investing in transportation means jobs, jobs, jobs.
Recent polls by the Washington Post and others show that, on the surface, raising the gas tax appears to be unpopular, as is the case with most other taxes. However, these polls do not go beyond the surface level to ask if support would increase if the legislature also added a “lock box” to protect the Transportation Trust Fund from future raids, and if voters knew a 10-cent gas tax increase would cost each resident an average of $50 per year, far less than the wasted fuel and other costs each of us is currently paying due to congestion and poor road conditions — a staggering $1,500 per resident per year in Maryland, which is a direct result of continued failure to invest in key transportation improvements. When given these two pieces of information, support for a 10-cent increase soars in more detailed polling at the state and national level. Voters want more investment in transportation, and when they hear the case being made they find it persuasive.
Let’s face it, there is never an easy time to raise revenues from any source, but the gas tax has not been adjusted since 1992 and has lost more than half its value to inflation. Maryland residents are paying less now in gas taxes in real dollars than they did in the 1970s, and current funding levels are simply no longer economicially sustainable, so now is as good a time as any to bite the bullet and do what they know is right. Without an increase this year, major projects like the Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway, or much needed improvements to Route 4, Route 5, I-270 and hundreds of others SIMPLY CANNOT MOVE FORWARD.
It’s time to raise the gas tax and index it to inflation now!
Visit our Action page to sign our on-line petition to “Invest Now!” in our transportation future.