GBC to fight diversion of transportation funds
Greater Baltimore Committee President Donald C. Fry (right) said his group will fight a proposal by General Assembly budget analysts to divert money expected to go toward transportation starting in 2013 to the state general fund.
Under a state law adopted in 2008, the percentage of the state's sales tax revenue that is expected to be devoted to the Transportation Trust Fund is expected to increase from 5.3 percent to 6.5 percent starting with the budget year that begins July 1, 2013. The state Department of Legislative Services urged the legislature Wednesday to cancel that increase and keep the money for general use. Such a move would cost the transportation fund almost $60 million a year in the early years of the change, which would be permanent. The decrease would follow several years in which transportation programs have been deferred because of a recession-related shortage of money to undertake them.
Fry said his group, representing Baltimore-area business leaders, would lobby vigorously against the proposal.
"This is not the time for the legislature to be reaching into the Transportation Trust Fund cookie jar and getting whatever crumbs are left," Fry said.
Fry said the diversion of transportation money to the general fund -- a move the state has resorted to previously to close budget gaps -- erodes public support for revenue-raising measures for roads and transit projects.
"The public feels the legislature does not honor the trust portion of the Transportation Trust Fund," he said.
Fry said legislative analysts have long been cool toward the idea of dedicating part of the sales tax to a dedicated purpose such as transportation. But he said the Assembly determined that the trust fund needed a source of funding that tended to grow with inflation.