WHERE HAVE ALL THE ROAD FUNDS GONE?

February 4, 2014

TO:  THE PEOPLE OF LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT 8

WHERE HAVE ALL THE ROAD FUNDS GONE?

 

It has been customary for Maryland governors to raid dedicated funds and take monies designated for specific programs to balance the budget.  We are all familiar with the numerous raids on the Transportation Trust Fund.  Unfortunately, Governor O’Malley has not broken with this custom.

In order to balance the $39.2 billion FY 2015 budget, the Governor has used $172 million designated as the state’s contribution to its unfunded liabilities; employee health and retirement benefits.  In addition, he has used $69 million in Program Open Space funds.

One of the largest state raids on designated funds, however, is the $1.1 billion the state has taken from the highway user fund which is used by counties and municipalities to maintain local roads.  Historically, the state has kept 70% of highway user revenue and sent 30% to local governments to be divided based on road mileage and vehicle registrations.  In 2010, the formula was changed.  The state kept 71.5% for the Transportation Department, 19.3% for the general fund, 7.5% for Baltimore City and 1.7% for the counties.

Since 2003, in order to balance the budget, the state has been siphoning off highway user funds.  The highway user fund is made up of gas tax money and registration fees.  Very little of the money has been replaced.  The locals have received around 5 cents or 10 cents on the dollar in highway user revenue.  No hope of revenue replacement during the current General Assembly session has been given local governments.

In 2007, Baltimore City and the counties divided more than $500 million in highway user revenue.  While the state is expected to bring in $1.75 billion in highway user funds this year, the local share will be a mere $167.5 million.  While the increased gas tax revenue will provide more money for statewide road projects, only a tiny amount of that money will go to local government.  Because of their huge loss of highway user funds, local governments have been limited to bare-bones maintenance and emergency patching.  Baltimore County’s share of highway user funds has dropped from $43 million to less than $4 million. 

Additionally, in a recent public meeting on the Eastern Shore, Jim Smith, Secretary of the Transportation Department, told officials that the state might consider allowing local governments to tax their people to recover their share of highway user funds.  First, the state robs us and then they tell us to tax our people to get the money back.  That is just plain wrong!

Because of the continuous raiding of the Transportation Trust Fund, I have drafted a bill to require the legislature to approve any toll increases proposed by the administration.  I feel this bill will hold government accountable for what seems to have become annual toll increases.

Please do not hesitate to contact me on this or any other issue of concern to you.  I always encourage and welcome your input.