Special Legislative Session Should Increase Transportation Revenues
Members of the Maryland General Assembly -
Seldom have we written you about a more urgent issue.
We understand that a second Special Session of the legislature will most likely be convened in mid-July.
From the Governor's latest indications, it appears that this special session will consider gambling almost exclusively. While expansion of gambling in Maryland may be important to a select few, we strongly believe that there are much more significant needs affecting all Marylanders which the Maryland General Assembly must address in this Special Session. Not to do so would be a tragedy of enormous proportions.
At the top of the State's priority list is an unsustainable shortfall in transportation funding which cannot be ignored any longer. The failure to act on this matter will have catastrophic economic ramifications for each of the State's 24 jurisdictions and every resident of our Free State.
Let's set the record straight: the gasoline tax in Maryland has remained unchanged since 1992. Its contributions to the designated Transportation trust fund have fallen both quantitatively and proportionally to the point that all types of transportation infrastructure and improvements (many already approved) are in jeopardy.
As the Washington Post reported on May 20, the future of transportation maintenance and improvements in the State is very much in doubt because the overwhelming need for reliable transportation funding has not been addressed by our State legislature, clearly referring to a failure of political leadership.
Some legislators (during this year's regular session) cited the cost of gas, but as you know, the price of gas has fallen recently by much more than the small increment of its cost that the phased-in sales tax proposed by the Governor would have added. Past attempts to increase transportation funding have failed due to concerns about high gas prices. Now is the time to act.
Some describe an additional tax on gasoline as regressive - but no tax is more regressive than the requirement for ownership of an automobile to get to work. AAA estimates the cost of car ownership at more than $8,000 per year. And the last thing the suburban Maryland region needs is more car commuters where transit can be provided.
Further, it is estimated that each Maryland household is currently wasting $2,300 a year in extra fuel and vehicle wear-and-tear strictly due to severe congestion and the poor condition of our roads. This hidden "congestion tax" far surpasses the relatively modest cost to taxpayers of restoring the Transportation Trust Fund.
Of greatest urgency are the Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway for the National Capital region and the Red Line for the Baltimore area. These critical systems will not be built without a guarantee of State funds to match the Federal funds for which both projects are eligible and are now receiving.
We strongly urge you to put and keep critical transportation funding on the agenda until appropriate funding is secure, and not allow gambling to be the only issue addressed.
Please let us know how we can utilize our many organizations and grass roots supporters to assist you in this important campaign.
Purple Line NOW
Red Line Now
Tina Slater, President
Action Committee for Transit
Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance
Corridor Cities Transitway Coalition