ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland has been feeling a transportation funding crunch in recent years at the federal, state and local government levels. Federal highway funding has dropped, just as it has in many other states. Maryland’s own budget pressures also have drained money away from transportation.
Here are some transportation funding developments in Maryland:
FEDERAL HIGHWAY FUNDING
Data obtained by The Associated Press shows federal aid for Maryland highways fell by about $57 million, or 9 percent, over the five years ending in 2013. Money from the Federal Highway Trust Fund dropped from $644.2 million in 2008 to $587.2 million in 2013.
FALLING OVERPASS CHUNK
Infrastructure concerns received attention earlier this month when concrete fell off of a Capital Beltway overpass near the nation’s capital and hit a Prince George’s County grandmother’s car. She wasn’t hurt. Maryland’s acting transportation secretary ordered inspections for all 27 similar state-owned bridges to help the state see if repairs are needed.
Maryland Rep. John Delaney, a Democrat, has proposed bipartisan legislation to replenish the federal Highway Trust Fund. It would use international corporate tax reform to patch up the fund for six years. Delaney says it would produce enough revenue to provide an additional $120 billion to the Highway Trust Fund, enough to last six years.
In 2013, then-Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, successfully pushed through Maryland’s first gas tax increase in two decades to help pay for a growing backlog of transportation projects. The state’s 23.5-cent gas tax was raised by adding a sales tax to gasoline, phased in over three years to a total of about 20 cents by 2016. The measure also includes automatic increases in the future to adjust for inflation. Road and bridge tolls also increased during O’Malley’s administration.
STOP THE RAIDS
Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2014 to limit the practice of using transportation funding to patch other budget holes. The practice was widely criticized as the state tapped transportation funds to help balance the budget during the recession and its aftermath. Money in the Transportation Trust Fund can’t be spent on purposes other than transportation, unless the governor declares a fiscal emergency and the House and Senate approve transferring money with a three-fifths vote in each chamber.
GAS TAX REPEAL
Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has proposed repealing the automatic inflationary increases to the gas tax. He also proposes to cap the sales and use tax at the current 2-percent rate. “The current law allows taxes on gas to steadily grow without a single vote, and hurts struggling Maryland families and our most vulnerable citizens in the process,” Hogan said. Democratic leaders who control the Legislature, however, oppose the idea.
HIGHWAY USER FUNDS
The state has tapped hundreds of millions of dollars that once went to local governments to make road repairs in the last six years. Michael Sanderson, executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties, said about $2.1 billion, or about $350 million a year, has stopped flowing from the state to the counties over that time. Hogan campaigned on replenishing the money, but has said he wasn’t able to do it in his first budget proposal in January because he inherited $750 million shortfall. Hogan has since released a supplemental budget to add $25 million to highway user funds.
(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)