Cumberland Times-News

April 15, 2013

‘Lockbox’

Proposal would protect Md. transportation funding


Cumberland Times-News

—  The proposed “lockbox” to stop state officials from raiding Maryland’s Transportation Trust is not a sure-fire solution — but it probably is the best option Annapolis powerbrokers would support.

When the General Election is held in 2014, Maryland voters will be asked to decide whether to set up the lockbox to protect transportation money. In the past, the trust fund has been raided when state officials fell short of money for various state expenditures. In the meantime, road repairs and other transit needs have gone lacking.

Sponsored by Senate President Mike Miller as a companion to an increase in the gasoline tax, the measure, Senate Bill 829, provides that money can only be taken out of the Transportation Trust Fund after a three-fifths vote of both houses of the Maryland General Assembly once the governor has declared a state of “fiscal emergency.”

Although Miller and Democrat leaders believe the lockbox will keep transportation funds safe, Republicans have their doubts.  House Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell  was quoted by          MarylandReporter.com as saying: “Every time   we raid the Transportation Trust Fund, it meets the three-fifths vote” in both houses. Republicans also lament the lack of a definition of “fiscal emergency” and believe it still will be relatively easy to take transportation dollars from the trust fund.

While we agree that the lockbox proposal has a lot to be desired, the adage of half-a-loaf being better than nothing applies in this instance. With Democrats vastly outnumbering Republicans in both the Senate and House, there is no realistic hope that any more  than the constitutional amendment can be accomplished.

Voters should give their approval to the amendment and hope Maryland leaders are finally realizing that raiding the transportation fund has long-lasting, dire ramifications.