“Everyone in the state is going to share in this, whether they’re driving, riding, in a car, a bus or a train,” said commission Chairman Gus Bauman, acknowledging that officials will have to convince Marylanders that the increases will not be diverted to other priorities. “When they’re tied to a guarantee by the government that the money raised will be used for the purposes promised, people will go along.”
The commission recommended that lawmakers better protect the revenues by passing a constitutional amendment that prohibits using money from the Transportation Trust Fund for non-transportation purposes.
The state has borrowed more than $2 billion from the fund in the past three years, which in turn has forced officials to delay some projects and withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in highway-user revenue formerly given to local governments.
The proposed amendment would prohibit any non-transportation fund transfers, except during a governor- and assembly-declared fiscal state of emergency.
The assembly would then have to approve any transfers and establish a repayment plan.
Delegate Michael D. Smigiel Sr., Cecil Republican, said he wants the state to keep a tighter lid on the trust fund, but that officials are doing little to curb the spending that he thinks led to the transfers.
“The funds were used to grow the size of government,” he said. “I have a hard time buying the argument that we need to put a bigger lock, or two locks, on the box because we don’t have the self-control to do what the law tells us.”
The governor said last week that he hopes to introduce a jobs package during the regular session that could include more transportation spending, which he said would create temporary and long-term jobs and bolster infrastructure.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
David Hill joined The Washington Times in February 2011 as a Maryland political reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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