- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
House Republicans offered their critique of a Senate transportation funding plan Tuesday morning, arguing that the state needed a more balanced spending plan, not a tax hike.
While less than 9 percent of Marylanders commute via mass transit, those systems account for 57 percent of state transportation funding, said Del. Herbert H. McMillan (R-Anne Arundel).
“I think this clearly indicates that the way we spend our money on transportation is far out of alignment with the way that Marylanders travel,” he said.
The Senate plan, introduced by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Prince George’s) and scheduled to receive a Senate committee hearing Wednesday, includes a 3 percent sales tax on the wholesale price of gasoline, plus another 5-cent-per-gallon fee that would go to either state or county projects.
Miller said Republican criticism reflects an outdated line of thought.
“These people are Neanderthals in terms of their thinking,” Miller told reporters Tuesday. “Everyone of them wants revenues, and everyone of them knows we need to pay for it, but they don’t have the political courage, guts or intestinal fortitude to vote for it. It’s as simple as that.”
The rural areas of the state, typically represented by Republicans, also need new money for bridge and road projects, Miller said.
“They’re afraid of losing the primaries. They’re putting their political careers ahead of the state,” Miller said. “My constituents don’t want it; they don’t like any taxes. But guess what? It’s the right thing to do.”
Miller’s plan also calls for the creation of up to two regional authorities that would oversee funding and construction of transit projects in the Washington and Baltimore metropolitan regions and would have the power to raise local property taxes.
But new taxes would unfairly penalize the 92 percent of Marylanders who don’t use mass transit, McMillan said.
Republicans also took issue with Miller’s proposal for a so-called “lockbox” on the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, from which funds have been used in past years to balance the state’s budget. Such transfers would now only be allowed if the governor declared a state of fiscal emergency and if three-fifths of each legislative chamber voted in favor, according to the bill.
Miller’s plan doesn’t set the bar high enough and contains no timetable for such borrowed funds to be repaid, said Del. Susan W. Krebs (R-Carroll).