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Steve's News from Annapolis

2017-01-03

 

Over the past month, I have talked with constituents and others about the Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016 (House Bill 1013). There has also been a lot of media coverage regarding this bill that “scores” proposed transportation projects. It has been portrayed as a partisan bill that takes away the Governor’s authority to fund transportation projects in Baltimore County and throughout Maryland. As a member of the Environment and Transportation Committee, I disagree with this claim and want to share my insights on this bill.

Last session, after public hearings and extensive public debate, the General Assembly passed HB 1013 to increase transparency in Maryland’s transportation funding process. This law requires major transportation projects to be scored and ranked by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) based on transportation goals, such as safety, job access, economic development, system preservation, and local priority. There simply isn’t enough money to meet all our transportation needs at once. The law helps the state prioritize projects and maximize our returns on your investments.

Governor Hogan opposed the legislation and vetoed it, claiming that it forces him to kill road projects in almost every county in Maryland. This is simply not true. The law clearly states that “nothing in this Act may be construed to prohibit or prevent the funding of the capital transportation priorities in each jurisdiction.” You can read the language in the law here. Taxpayers deserve to know how elected officials are spending their money; that is why the General Assembly overrode his veto.

Under the new law, MDOT is to create the scoring system to determine which projects should be funded. In fact, in 2011, I sponsored a similar bill that the legislature passed. My bill requires counties to provide more details about transportation projects they wanted the state to fund. I believe that you should know why projects are being funded with taxpayer money.

Contrary to the Governor’s claim, HB013 does not kill any projects. He still has the authority to decide how transportation funds are spent. If the Governor wants to fund a lower scoring project, MDOT just needs to explain the decision in writing to the general public.

The Governor said that 71 projects will need to be canceled due to HB 1013. This is not true. The state’s Department of Legislative Services has found that 31 of the 71 projects are not even listed in the draft Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP) for FY 2017-2022. So, they could not have been funded anyway. However, the law is clear that, regardless of the project score, MDOT may include any project it wishes in the CTP. The DLS analysis also indicates that MDOT’s transportation program is oversubscribed by nearly $1.6 billion!

It appears that Governor Hogan cannot deliver on his transportation promises and has decided to blame this funding transparency law to avoid addressing the real problem. I urge you to read this Baltimore Sun editorial that explains the Governor’s recent posture.

Maryland should strive to be more transparent in its transportation funding decisions, not less. That is why I supported the bill and believe it is in the best interest of the county and state.

Sincerely,

Steve

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By Email: stephen.lafferty@house.state.md.us

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