Greater Baltimore Committee president and CEO Donald C. Fry was among lead business proponents to urge state lawmakers, at March 1 hearings, to pass legislation to enact a firewall restricting the use of the state’s Transportation Trust Fund and to increase revenue to the fund.
Fry and business leaders contend that a funding firewall is necessary to put an end to 27 years of raiding during which state lawmakers have transferred more than $1.5 billion from the state’s transportation fund to the general fund for non-transportation uses – mostly to balance the state’s operating budget.
An increase in the gas tax rate – which lawmakers last raised in 1992 and is the a major source of revenue that funds highways, transit, port, and airport facilities in Maryland – has become necessary because stagnating transportation funding has resulted in a growing transportation infrastructure crisis.
During the last decade, revenue for the state’s transportation infrastructure has been allowed to stagnate even as revenue for the state’s general operating fund has increased at twice the rate as transportation funding. Maryland currently faces a $40 billion backlog of state transportation projects that have been planned, but not funded for construction.
“Transportation funding is one of the most significant economic development challenges over the next 10 years,” Fry told members of the House Ways and Means Committee at its March 1 hearing on HB 1001, which would impose a firewall and increase the per-gallon gas tax rate and the state’s vehicle fees.
“Mobility is an essential part of the economy,” Fry said. “You have to be able to move people, goods and services. If you can’t do that, you’ll find there won’t be any investment.”
Legislation to impose a transportation funding firewall and increase its revenue must overcome major hurdles in order the pass the General Assembly this year, Fry noted in his February 25 commentary on CenterMaryland.com.
Fry’s commentary on the transportation funding issue.