Why lawmakers struggle with transportation funding

 

Governor Martin O’Malley’s proposal to increase funding for transportation infrastructure – a major priority for statewide business advocates – is stalled as the Maryland General Assembly enters the last week of its 2012 session.

It appears, for the 20th consecutive year, state lawmakers will fail to increase Maryland’s primary source of transportation funding: the gas tax. A decade of advocacy by the GBC and statewide business leaders to address our growing crisis in funding roads and transit has clearly identified the following serious issues that block state legislators from acting:

The “rural versus urban” dichotomy. Lawmakers have consistently been unable to reconcile these two diverse interests, which boils down to a frustrating “roads versus transit” debate, where lawmakers representing rural and urban constituencies typically talk past each other.

The issue of farebox recovery. Maryland has been beset with a legislative mandate that its commuter services recover a seemingly unattainable share of operating costs from riders.

Use of gas tax revenues. Lawmakers seem to be having increasing difficulty, as a body, in justifying transit investments from gas tax revenue, the traditional staple of all Maryland transportation funding.

Accounting for inflation. There is no inflation component to Maryland’s principal transportation funding mechanisms.

Overcoming a general lack of political fortitude. After 20 years of increasingly stagnating transportation revenue that has resulted in a massive backlog of unfunded road and transit projects, the General Assembly continues to habitually balk at enacting revenue increases for transportation assets.

State lawmakers must find a way to resolve these issues if Maryland’s transportation infrastructure – a core pillar of our state’s business climate – is to again be adequately funded.

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