Cumberland Times-News

Local News

February 5, 2013

Maryland delegates question use of highway funds

Republicans want to know how much money diverted to mass transit

ANNAPOLIS — The state transportation secretary, Darrell Mobley, got an earful from Republican delegates on the Appropriations Committee on Friday.

The Republicans wanted to know how much transportation funding had really been diverted to other programs and questioned why more transportation money was spent on mass transit than on public roads this year.

“We were told that all of the money from the general fund has been paid back, but there’s about a billion dollars from the highway user fund that has not been returned,” said Delegate Nancy Stocksdale, R-Carroll.

Stocksdale was referring to the $1.1 billion of highway user revenues that have been diverted from the transportation trust fund to the general fund since 2003.

Legislative analyst Jonathan Martin explained that highway user revenues are not technically part of the transportation trust fund and that because they are a legally distinct entity, the O’Malley administration is correct in saying that it paid off all its debts to the transportation trust fund.

Delegate Tony McConkey, R-Anne Arundel, called this a deceptive argument based on a “legal fiction,” and urged his fellow legislators to create “a lockbox” to prevent the state from using transportation funds for alternate purposes.

Mobley, the acting secretary of transportation for seven months, agreed that the department funds needed to be shielded from redistribution. “I know that there are sometimes fiscal emergencies, but there needs to be some kind of lockbox,” said Mobley, who added that his agency had woefully inadequate funds.

Mobley said that the transit system has needed renovation “for decades” and that Maryland’s roads are the most congested in the United States. “Without a major revenue increase, our roads will be even more congested,” he said.

That was perhaps the only point that Mobley and Republican delegates agreed on. During the rest of the hearing on the department’s budget, they challenged the secretary to justify the choice to devote 40 percent of his agency’s proposed 2014 budget to public transit and 13 percent to State Highway Administration.

Republican delegates also suggested that Baltimore City received a disproportionate share of transportation funds.

Delegate Wendell Beitzel, R-Garrett, complained about the “diminishing amount of highway spending” and argued that “money collected from cars on the highway” should be spent on roads rather than mass transit.

Mobley said that this claim of imbalance was unwarranted and based on “misconceptions,” since his agency had spent the bulk of its resources on roads for most of its history.

“While highway spending is on the decline, I would like to point out that ... it is only very recently that spending has shifted to transit,” he said, explaining that he needed to remedy years of neglect of Baltimore City’s public transit system, which still needs improvement.

Committee Republicans seemed unconvinced by that argument.

On Monday, the state tea party’s original organizer, Americans For Prosperity-Maryland, complained that 45 percent of this year’s transportation expenditures went toward mass transit and “49 percent of transportation revenue came from drivers but only 30 percent was spent on road construction and repair.”

Nick Loffer, grassroots director of Americans For Prosperity, argued that any revenue raised by a gas tax “will go toward mass transit, not roads and bridges.”

But Democratic Delegate Theodore Sophocleus, Anne Arundel, countered such arguments, saying that the state needed to raise additional revenue for mass transit to spur economic growth and job creation.

Sophocleus argued that new trains, subway stations and bus stops would result in additional state revenue from income taxes and corporate taxes, since an efficient transit system would make it easier for citizens to go shopping and go to work.

“Shouldn’t the revenue produced by people getting jobs and generating income override the expense of getting them to the job?” he said, adding that restaurants near transit stops in his district were packed with customers largely because of their location. “That economic impact should be taken into account when we measure the cost of transit.”

Text Only
Local News
  • Absentee ballots moving online causes security concerns

    ANNAPOLIS — Voters may get to skip the lines at the polls this summer by receiving and marking their ballots online, but election officials must first decide if the convenience outweighs the security risks.

    April 20, 2014

  • Allegany County emergency medical services honorees and supporters Allegany, Garrett emergency responders honored

    MCHENRY — The 75 people from Allegany and Garrett counties who were involved with two exceptional emergency medical services calls in 2013 were presented with awards at the recent Night for Stars program held at the Wisp Resort.

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Lexis Trickett meets with Gov. Martin O’Malley Ninth-grader among 30 at inaugural event

    OAKLAND — Lexis Trickett, a ninth-grade student at Southern Garrett High School, was among 30 girls who attended Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Leadership Forum for Women and Girls recently in Annapolis in celebration of Women’s History Month.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • School immunization requirements change

    CUMBERLAND — Changes to school immunization requirements by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene affect students entering kindergarten and seventh grade for the next school year.

    April 20, 2014

  • Easter experience Easter experience

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Game on: City interested in baseball study

    After it looked like the objection of a couple of constituents to a study on the feasibility of bringing a minor league baseball team to the area may have torpedoed the thought, county commissioners and some city officials sounded ready to sing a chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on Thursday.

    April 18, 2014

  • DEREK SHEELY Charges against helmet maker stand in case of Frostburg player’s death

    A Montgomery County judge this week declined to dismiss charges against a helmet manufacturer in a case brought by the parents of a Frostburg State University football player who died of head injuries in August 2011 following four straight days of heavy contact drills in practice.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • GAYLE MANCHIN W.Va. BOE president speaks on issues at WVSDB

    West Virginia Board of Education President Gayle Manchin responded to issues at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind during an interview with the Times-News Wednesday morning.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • REGINALD REDMAN Moorefield man jailed on felony drug count

    A Moorefield man was arrested on various charges Thursday, including a felony drug offense for possession of amphetamines, according to the Keyser Police Department.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Blossoming optimism Blossoming optimism

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

Must Read
News related video
Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Beau Biden Plans 2016 Run for Del. Governor Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians U.S. Sending Nonlethal Aid to Ukraine Military