Ehrlich pledges to give counties roads money
* Updated with O'Malley campaign response. *
Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said today that he'd restore $60 million in road maintence money to counties, making the announcement as local leaders met nearby for their summer convention.
Both he and Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley took chunks from the "highway user revenue fund" -- gas taxes and bridge fees and such -- to plug holes in the state budget. The fund is supposed to be used for road maintenance and improvements.
This fiscal year, O'Malley and the Maryland General Assembly cut that aid by more than $300 million.
Ehrlich said today that local leaders have begged him to give them more roads money. This fiscal year, the 23 counties are splitting $10 million -- which for many places translated to a more than 90 percent decrease in what they're supposed to receive. Baltimore City, which maintains all of its roads, got $130 million, less than it usually receives but still enough to anger some in the counties.
Ehrlich did not say where he would reduce the state budget to make up for the $60 million expense.
"Bob Ehrlich is promising to spend more taxpayer dollars and dig an even bigger hole than the $1.7 billion budget deficit he left four years ago as the biggest spending governor in Maryland history," O'Malley campaign manager Tom Russell said in a statement.
The Sun recently analyzed the taxing and spending histories of the two governors and the claims each has made.
O'Malley has made comments in the past few weeks that lead some local officials to believe that he intends to take the same amount of money next year, possibly more.
Ehrlich said the local roads money is "where the rubber meets the road." He defended his administration's use of the money, saying he basically returned it by passing a $250 million transportation funding package in 2004.