More than 25 members of the Statewide Transportation Alliance to Restore the Trust (START) met at the Greater Baltimore Committee on May 9 to discuss challenges they face in the aftermath of the 2011 General Assembly session, where a bill to increase the state’s Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) by $500 million annually and to enact a firewall to protect the fund from raids failed to get out of committee.
The recent General Assembly session showed that most Democrats support an increase in transportation revenue generating fees, but oppose firewall protections for the state’s TTF. Most Republicans, however, oppose any increase in transportation fees, yet they largely support the establishment of a firewall. START needs to find a way to get both parties uniformly supportive of both initiatives – at least enough to support the passage of such a bill, START members noted.
It is important to link transportation revenue increases to job creation and to successfully respond to instinctive negative reactions from the public – and lawmakers – to increasing the per-gallon gas tax rate, which is not inflation sensitive, or find other ways to significantly increase the state’s transportation fund. People want improved roads and increased mass transit, but do not want to pay for it, said START members.
Among suggestions aired at the meeting was to develop, for lawmakers and the public, a specific list of stalled highway, transit, port, and airport projects that could be built with increased transportation revenue. Most agreed that, for any effort to increase transportation infrastructure funding to succeed, the Governor needs to play a leadership role.
Others noted that a major consequence of allowing transportation funding to further stagnate, slowing BRAC infrastructure improvements, could be that the federal government eyes moving jobs out of Maryland during the next round of BRAC.
Meanwhile, legislation passed during the 2011 session to increase vehicle fees, combined with a “reconciliation” of revenue sources to the transportation trust fund will add $43 million to the TTF in FY 2012.