Transportation fund ‘lockbox’ sent to voters

By Len Lazarick


money in lockboxVoters next year will be asked to approve a constitutional amendment creating a  “lockbox” to prevent raids on the Transportation Trust Fund for other purposes, but Republican opponents said the measure was a sham that would provide little protection.

 Sponsored by Senate President Mike Miller as a companion to an increase in the gasoline tax, the measure, SB829, 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.”

Money from the gas tax, vehicle sales tax and vehicle registration fees flow into the trust fund. Over the past decade, billions have been taken out of the trust fund for other programs to help balance the budget. All but $1.1 billion in highway user revenues has been repaid.

Miller and Democratic leaders believe that the “lockbox” would reassure Maryland citizens that transportation revenues are going only for roads and mass transit.

Republicans question security of lockbox

But House Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell objected, “Every time we raid the Transportation Trust Fund, it meets the three-fifths vote” in both houses.

 The problem with the lockbox provision is that it did not define “a fiscal emergency,” Republicans said. They offered several amendments that would make it apply only after an invasion, natural disaster or other such catastrophe, not just a prolonged economic recession.

 Del. Susan Krebs, R-Carroll, offered a substitute constitutional amendment also spelling out that the any money taken out of the trust fund would have to be repaid over five years.

 The Democratic proposal “does not give any type of real lockbox on the trust fund,” Krebs said.

Measure will be before the voters November 2014

 All Republican amendments were rejected by wide margins. The constitutional amendment, which also requires a three-fifths vote, passed the House 106-32 and it passed the Senate 40-7 Monday night in the final hours of the Maryland General Assembly’s legislative session.

 As a change to the state constitution, it does not need the signature of the governor, but goes directly to the voters for their approval in the November 2014 election.

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. joe

    The “Lockbox” Maryland Constitutional amendment is another no win situation for Maryland taxpayers.

    Maryland taxpayers are celebrating the day after Sin Die (April 9, 2013) or “Annapolis Democratic politicians out of our lives and our wallets day for another year,” unless a special session is called to again put their hands into our pockets.

    Democratic Governor O’Malley (who wants to be King Obama II) and the Democratic Maryland Legislature have rammed gun control; illegal immigrant drivers licenses; storm water runoff fees; more environmental nonsense bills; increased gasoline taxes; eliminated the death penalty; provided money for fixing Baltimore schools; increased gas and electric charges; increased tobacco taxes; outrageous fines for using a cell phone while driving; mandated public school teachers be forced to join unions; giving state workers 3% raises, while large numbers of Maryland Citizens are unemployed; paid down the quarterly structural debt for the sixth time; mandated uneconomical windmills; caused potential voter fraud via same day registration and voting; proposed bills to restrict Maryland citizens rights to referendum; and other progressive special interest legislation down Maryland citizens throats.

    The governor gets a perpetually increasing gasoline tax, pleading for more money to fix Maryland’s roads, yet finds millions of dollars for keeping baseball at Towson University. $1 billion was “borrowed” from the Transportation Trust Fund, but never repaid. If you or I did this kind of “borrowing” in a business, we would go to jail! Baltimore schools do need fixing, but Maryland taxpayers should be prepared to bail out the city’s share of the project in a few years.

    We Maryland citizens are losing our freedoms to the “I know better than you progressive crowd” in Annapolis and the governor is using us as his ATM to spend, spend, spend.

    Democratic liberal progressives who love to spend other peoples money lament, if you don’t like it here leave. Yes, in a few years Maryland will be like California and New York state as private businesses and ordinary folks flee to other more economically friendly states.

    In January 2014, Republican and freedom loving Democratic representatives should consider introducing HB 1/SB 1 restricting the Maryland General Assembly session to 10 days or less!

    • Dale McNamee

      This is what happens when willfully ignorant, wilfully uninformed, and apathetic voters ( Democrats mainly ) of Maryland vote…
      I think that every Delegate & Senator who raids the various “funds” should be forced to pay it back via wage garnishment ( even when out of office ), it would make them think ( if they’re capable of such )….
      But, it will never happen…

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