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Maryland county, city leaders push for more transportation money

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was in Annapolis on Tuesday to press lawmakers to restore funding for the city’s road and transit networks after years of budget state raids that have sapped local transportation funds.

During a hearing on that topic, she was asked by a Republican delegate what Baltimore was doing to expand its tax base.

The mayor spoke of easing permitting and regulations and working to attract high-tech companies to the city.

“We just had a business relocate from Prince George’s County…” Rawlings-Blake said, trailing off as many in the hearing room started to laugh.

Sitting two seats to the mayor’s left was Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker.“We’re not just poaching from Prince George’s County,” the mayor said later, clarifying her economic development strategy.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, however, took the opposite tack.

“Since the mayor has put a claim on one of your business, I’m going for the grand slam,” Leggett said. “I want National Harbor.”

The local leaders did talk about transportation, too.

Leggett said he had been calling for a gas tax hike for five years to stave off a transportation funding crisis.

“That nightmare is now happening,” he said. “We need help at the local level. This is about jobs.”

Without new money to spend on easing congestion, Leggett said the proposed “Science City” development near Gaithersburg will “be dead in the water.” The project is expected to bring 40,000 jobs to Montgomery.

“We are in a competition with Northern Virginia,” Leggett said. “They are finally moving forward with their transportation needs and we are being held back.”

Rawlings-Blake said Baltimore would have to cut its road resurfacing budget in half next year as well as cut staffing at the traffic management center to 16 hours from 24, cut back on sidewalk repairs and delay major projects for years without an infusion of new transportation money.

“When it comes to transportation infrastructure, we are running on empty,” the mayor said.