Fry to O’Malley and lawmakers: ‘Make transportation a priority’

Greater Baltimore Committee president and CEO Donald C. Fry called on Governor Martin O’Malley and Maryland lawmakers to make transportation funding a top fiscal priority in the next General Assembly session, whenever it is held.

Writing in his Oct. 2 edition of the GBC’s State House Update to its members, Fry expressed concern that Governor O’Malley’s proposed fiscal plan does not fully fund revenue increases needed for Maryland’s Transportation Trust Fund — which the GBC contends should be a top fiscal priority.

The GBC has not voiced positions on most of the elements of the governor’s deficit reduction plan except transportation funding. In the 2007 General Assembly session, the GBC did support increasing the cigarette tax to fund expanding health care access without employer mandates. Since then the GBC has made transportation funding its top fiscal priority.

The governor’s newly-proposed fiscal plan includes tax and fee increases that place significant burdens on businesses and business owners, Fry noted. And in the process it “does not fully deliver on the business community’s top priority — increasing revenue for transportation by at least $600 million per year,” Fry wrote. “The issue of fully funding our state’s transportation resources to address projected growth is critical to Maryland’s economic future.”

Current revenue projections for the state’s Transportation Trust Fund show that the amount of annual funding available for capital investment in new transportation projects will decrease by 35 percent in the next five years, Fry reports.

A minimum of $600 million in annual new transportation revenue is needed to stem the erosion of funding resources and to address a state backlog of more than $40 billion in transportation projects currently in the planning stages but not yet funded for construction, according to Fry.

The state’s diminishing available capital funding for new roads, bridges, and airport and port facilities prompted Fry and GBC Chairman Atwood “Woody” Collins III to recently call for a 10 cent per-gallon gas tax increase to bridge the gap between O’Malley’s proposed $392 million transportation funding increase and the $600 million the GBC contends is needed.

The governor is seeking to gain consensus among legislative leaders to call a special session of the General Assembly in November to address his proposal for taxes and deficit reduction, transportation funding, expanding access to health care, and slots. 

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