March 14, 2013

House of Delegates rejects proposal to return $1 billion taken from highway funds

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By Ilana Kowarski
Ilana@MarylandReporter.com

Del. Susan Krebs

Del. Susan Krebs

During floor debate over the state budget, the Maryland House of Delegates rejected an amendment that would restore $1.1 billion in funds that had been taken from highway user revenues to pay the state’s bills during budget shortfalls since 2003.

Del. Susan Krebs, R- Carroll, who introduced the amendment, argued Wednesday that the state had an obligation to restore these highway revenues before asking motorists to pay additional tolls and gas taxes. The state has historically shared a portion of its transportation revenue, highway user funds, with local governments to pay for road projects.

“We need to pay it back before we ask our motorists for another penny,” Krebs said.

Minority Whip Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, R-Talbot, agreed.

“The money for the roads has already been paid, and now that it was taken, citizens should not be asked to pay again,” she said.

Haddaway-Riccio said that her constituents feel burdened by the recent increases in bridge tolls and gas prices. She insisted that transportation funds should be spent exclusively on transportation projects, and argued that the redirection of those funds was illegitimate.

“Maybe we should change the name of the Transportation Trust Fund, because if we are not going to use the money for transportation, it’s disingenuous to call it that,”  Haddaway-Riccio said.

Democrats argue cut was necessary, restoration impossible

Democratic delegates contested this analysis, saying that the taking of highway user revenues really amounted to a reduction in state grants for local roads. They argued that reducing local aid was appropriate, given the difficult economic conditions.

St. Mary’s County Democrat John Bohanan Jr. said that Republicans were asking for the impossible.

“This is a billion dollars that we frankly do not have,” he said. “We do not have enough money in the Transportation Trust Fund for our state roads.  What we’re being asked to do is take care of the county roads, and we cannot afford to do that.”

Del. Mike McDermott, R-Wicomico and Worcester, replied by saying that counties and cities were also suffering from the economic downturn, and he argued that these local governments would have to make painful sacrifices if their state transportation funding was not restored.

$500 million restored to Transportation Trust Fund, but not highway user

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration’s position is that the state does not owe any money to the transportation trust fund, since it has repaid more than $500 million that was taken from the fund during the years when the governor declared a fiscal emergency.  Highway user revenues are part of the trust fund but are kept in a separate account, and the O’Malley administration argues that the money removed from that account is not a debt.

Krebs condemned the O’Malley administration’s position, arguing that it was hard to justify taking a billion dollars with no intention of returning it.

“I understand why the state spent that money during a fiscal emergency, but I don’t think anybody agreed that we wouldn’t be paying that money back,” she said.

According to an analysis by the legislature’s staff (page 31), $245 million of the $1.1 billion transferred out of the Highway Users Revenues to the general fund was removed during the administration of Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich. None of that money was replaced, nor was the $868 million taken during the O’Malley administration.

  • Marty McLyman

    Our politicians are thieves. Big city crime rings have nothing on these guys. Lock upi your daughters and hide your money!

  • db

    So by their logic, I can just take a billion dollars of state funds because of the “tough economic conditions” and not have to pay back the state. Cool, I accept check or cash, Mr. O’Malley.

    So glad he can’t run again. That’s one thug I wish would go back to Ireland.

  • Upstart

    Of course it’s not a dept. It’s a down right theft of tax payers money that has already been paid and now they want to tax us again.
    O’Malley can’t seem to get it that tax upon tax is just not right.

    • abby_adams

      Just keep repeating the Dems mantra from the last state election, “A fee is a tax if it comes out of my pocket,” while the Dem controlled legislature attempts to dump even higher taxes on the driving public. The dirty little secret they never want to fully expose is the amt of subsidy drivers are providing for O’Malley’s mass transit dream. Everyone from the hills of Western MD to the Atlantic seashore will be paying the freight for the new Purple & Red lines, not to mention the continuing subsidies for every other money loosing mass transit operation in the state. If they charged riders the true cost of mass transit the buses & light rail would be empty.

      • >abby_adams. It’s called PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION because the PUBLIC pays for it! NOWHERE in the world, is PUBLIC transportation not subsidized!

        • abby_adams

          I well understand it’s called “public transportation” but in MD the MTA is mandated to collect 35% of the costs from fares, a goal not achieved in the last 5 years. Why should drivers who, in many cases, do not have the option of “public transportation” in their area of the state, pay the freight for those who do have this benefit? Additionally, many of those using public transportation receive a monthly subsidy, provided by taxpayer dollars. Why raise gas taxes even higher when the pump price approaches $4 a gallon? Why push to obtain $ from the feds for two new light rail lines that will only put MD taxpayers further in debt for systems that may or may not alleviate traffic congestion given the routes selected?

    • MDPatriot

      Owe’Malley has been doing it for years, even when he was Mayor. He thinks if Obama can steal from designated taxpayer funded projects, he can, too.

  • Indignant Marylander

    Maryland is infested with democrats … blind democrats elected the people in office … why the complaints? Don’t democratic Marylanders like constant tax increases and gov spending????

    • MDPatriot

      Blind and deaf Dumbocrats with visions of “entitlement grandeur” are the ones to blame for Owe’Malley and Osama bin Obama getting re-elected. Little do those Kool-Aide drinking fools care, either.

  • Dukehoopsfan

    When you consider that an overwhelming majority of registered voters work for the state or the federal government or are otherwise on the public dole behavior by MD elected officials will continue on this fraudulent path.

  • These elected officials are THIEFS and should be put in jail with the other criminals.

  • rick

    When they are not stealing from us, they are busy wasting the money they already stole from us

  • RG

    What was the bill number? What was the amendment number?

  • THEY ARE ALL THIEVES!!! I REFUSE to have ANY MORE of My Family’s money STOLEN…O’MALLEY CAN STICK IT UP HIS…

  • Regardless who was the MD Gov at the time, its still the peoples funds! How about comment from the comptroller’s office? Transparency in this matter is “King”! I cannot bear and pass on my business’ expense to my lawn and landscaping customers as they are dropping me because of fuel prices, which will even go higher is taxes are imposed again.