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.
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:
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.
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.
Protect the funds in the Transportation Trust Fund from future raids.
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.
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!
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.
Transportation funding remains a key issue in Maryland this year. Tell your legislators to Invest Now!