The federal focus on infrastructure is an incredible opportunity for Maryland to address the needs of communities across our state.
Specifically, Maryland can do a better job focusing on locally maintained roads and bridges than it has for the last 12 years. For decades, Maryland carved off a 30% share of revenues from motor fuels and vehicles and sent it to our county and municipal governments. These local governments are responsible for around 83% of our state’s road miles and have no local transportation revenue sources, so this funding share worked out fairly for several decades.
During the 2009 “Great Recession,” this local funding was drastically cut back while the state’s budget was in crisis. That was understandable. However, in the aftermath, while most service cuts were restored as times got better, this diversion of local funds never was. It’s been 12 long years, and our local governments are still on a starvation budget for their own local roads. Maintenance schedules have been abandoned, safety projects stalled, and even road-clearing efforts have been strained.
This is the year to fix it. This is our year to build for tomorrow.
There are hearings in both the House and the Senate this week for bills — House Bill 1187 and Senate Bill 726 — aiming to correct this problem.
Federal infrastructure funds are coming to Maryland. The state can go back to the fair 70/30 formula split that worked well for decades. Moreover, state projects that were counting on that outsized share of state funds can still arrive on time with the help of infrastructure funds. Everybody wins.
To be clear: There are no new funds or taxes at play here – just the right allocation of existing resources, to correct a diversion of these funds from their intended purpose during the very difficult recession-driven budget years.
Annapolis has a chance to right a wrong and to put infrastructure back on track – not just for huge projects, but also for the roads that get us home and help our businesses thrive.
Your partners in local government are ready to get back to work, but we need your help. Restore highway user revenues back to local governments and make this a fair part of Maryland’s next generation of infrastructure planning.
Howard County Executive Calvin Ball is chair of the Maryland Association of Counties Legislative Committee.