Regional transportation plan called conversation starter, but a solution?

As the Senate president’s transportation revenue plan is drafted, the presiding officers’ counterpart in the House of Delegates is cautioning that the bill may just be a way to get the conversation started.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, plans to introduce a bill that would create regional transportation authorities that could levy taxes on residents under the supervision of local governments.

Miller has been mulling such a plan since before the General Assembly began, but announced his intent to sponsor that legislation after Gov. Martin O’Malley chose not to include a new transportation funding model in the legislative agenda he unveiled last week.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said Wednesday that he and other delegates were still compiling data in search of a new funding source. Busch said the regional transportation authority was an interesting idea, but wasn’t willing to give it his full endorsement.

“The devils are in the details on that,” Busch said, reasoning that composition of the regions and their tax structures would be potentially contentious. Still, with business leaders shouting for infrastructure improvements that could reduce congestion and spur economic development in Maryland, the speaker said he was glad Miller was offering a plan that could restart the discussion.

“I’m in no way critical of that,” Busch said.

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