OCEAN CITY — The president of the Maryland Association of Counties said Thursday that a “significant increase” in state transportation aid represents a good start but more is still needed.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, speaking to the annual gathering of county leaders, said $663 million in transportation aid was the culmination of a promise made eight years ago. But the underlying formula governing that aid is lower than where it was before cuts were made more than a decade ago.
Laura Everngam Price, a Republican Talbot County Council member and president of the association, said local governments once received a 30% share of transportation dollars before cuts under Gov. Martin O’Malley. A deal cut earlier this year will increase aid but only to about two-thirds of what it once was.
“We worked with the legislative leaders to successfully broker a major bipartisan agreement, which dramatically increases transportation funding for local governments,” said Hogan. “Local governments will now receive $663 million more in state funding for local transportation projects. Now that’s what I call taking care of business.”
But that aid is still not fully restored to previous levels.
“What came through this year, the counties still kind of still got the short end of the stick if you look at the percentages,” Everngam Price said. “For 30 years 30% was the state’s formula. They’re getting back to 20%.”
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Three decades ago, 23 counties would split roughly three-quarters of the aid. The final 25% would go to Baltimore city, which has no state roads.
“Certainly we’re happy for the increase, but there’s more work to be done on that and there was only so much that the governor could do,” she said.
Hogan, in an unusual opening day conference address, used his time to take one more victory lap for his two terms. Eight years ago, Hogan stood in front of the same group and vowed to restore lost state aid for local transportation projects.
“We prioritized funding for local transportation projects. The previous administration cut highway user revenues by 90%. I promised you eight years ago if I was elected, we’d try to do something about that,” said Hogan.
Restoring state transportation aid has been a focus of the association for more than a decade.
That funding was slashed by as much as 96 percent under O’Malley and the state legislature to help offset budget shortfalls.
Four years ago, Hogan worked to restore some of that aid.
“It was a good start but still more was needed and we never stopped fighting for you,” he said.