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January 25, 2011

Business groups want transit funds in a lockbox

A constellation of Maryland business groups believe the state must raise more money for transportation, but they also want a constitutional amendment to wall off the funds so it can't be used elsewhere in the budget.

Members of the group, called START (State Transportation Alliance to Restore Trust), say they've become frustrated by Gov. Martin O'Malley's habit of closing budget shortfalls by raiding transit funds. In next year's budget, for example, O'Malley proposed taking $30 million from the Transportation Trust Fund to fill up the state's Rainy Day Fund.

Don Fry, the head of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said Tuesday that the repeated raids have caused "an undermining" of the Transportation Trust Fund. Kathy Snyder, the president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce said "hundreds of millions of dollars" are needed to attack a backlog of transportation projects, but her members are hesitant to support new revenues -- like a hike to the gas tax -- out of fear that the funds would be moved elsewhere.

A tax package aimed at replenishing the trust fund will be introduced in coming days by Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola, who also supports protecting the money for transit projects. He estimates the state needs an additional $400 to $600 million a year, but wouldn't provide details about his plan on Tuesday. One option frequently discussed is an increase to the gas tax: One penny nets the state $30 million.

But Garagiola has a timing problem if he wants an ironclad protection on money he'd raise this year. Changes to the state's constitution must be approved by the voters and they won't see another ballot until November 2012.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 3:36 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Administration
        

Comments

When did raiding the Roads Commission Reserves for ready cash first start?

Surely this has been going on far longer than Mr O'Malley has even been alive.

But not doing so is still a good idea.

Totally irresponsible fiscal management by both the previous governor and especially by our current governor MOM.
MOM never saw a trust fund he could not raid!

I'm curious about who START actually is. I did a quick search when this was posted and wasn't able to find any reference to them or website for them outside of this blog post. Any links or information you can provide Annie? I'm also guessing that the headline of "transit" as opposed to "transportation" is a typo.

Don Fry posted a list of START members at and more detail at http://articles.centermaryland.org/?p=2340

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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