Bill would add vehicle registration surcharge for transportation projects -- Gazette.Net


A Montgomery County state senator has filed a bill that would allow a county or municipal corporation to impose an annual vehicle registration surcharge of up to $20 to go toward transportation improvements.

The legislation filed by Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington comes on the heels of a task force’s report to find more revenue for transportation, even after the gasoline tax and tolls were raised last year. Each dollar raised by a local entity would be matched by the state under the proposal.

The Local and Regional Transportation Funding Task Force, formed last year, recommended in its final report in December that “further consideration” be given to a new vehicle registration surcharge, raising the local income tax rate and other proposals. Madaleno, who could not be reached for comment, was a member of the task force.

If such a fee were implemented by counties and cities in Maryland to the $20 level, the state transportation department estimated that $96 million could be raised each year, according to the task force report.

Christopher Summers, president of the Rockville-based Maryland Public Policy Institute, said it wasn’t a surprise that officials are seeking more funding sources for transportation.

He said it would be better for state and local entities to commission an independent audit that would prioritize transportation projects according to how effective they would be at alleviating traffic congestion, and doubted that the proposed Purple Line between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties would rank high on the list.

“That project will do little to actually alleviate traffic congestion,” Summers said.

The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, Greater Silver Spring chamber and Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase chamber are among the groups supporting the Purple Line.

Less than 10 percent of Maryland residents use mass transit, yet the majority of the transportation financing funding passed last year will be spent on mass transit projects, Summers said.

He called on state officials to stop using transportation funds to plug holes in the state budget and to put more funds into maintenance and repairs to roads and bridges that drivers use the most.

A hearing on the bill is slated for Feb. 19 in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

The task force also recommended that officials review expanding the local income tax rate to have that increase go toward transportation. If a 0.05 percent increase to the income tax was implemented, the state estimated that $107 million would be generated annually. Another proposal could include increasing real estate transfer taxes.