Why I introduced bill on teachers' pensions

November 16, 2007|By JOHN DONOGHUE

In response to Bob Maginnis and Brien Poffenberger questioning the rationale regarding HB 50, I offer the following. At the request of the Speaker of the House, I submitted HB 50 for discussion purposes only. Had newspaper personnel covered the hearing, they would have understood that the purpose of the bill was to get the wealthy counties with huge surpluses to come to the table and explore ways to address the budget and protect less wealthy counties.

My job is to protect services in Washington County, including teachers' pensions. The governor's revenue packages adequately address expenditures and HB 50 is a nonissue and a nonstory.

In response to the chamber's opposition to the governor's efforts, I offer the following. On May 29, Commissioners President John Barr sent a letter to the Maryland Department of Transportation outlining Washington County's transportation needs.

He included in his request the intersections of U.S. 40 and Edgewood Drive, U.S. 40 and Cornell Drive, Eastern Boulevard, U.S. 340 /Keep Tryst Road, Interstate 81 widening and the Interstate 70 corridor study.


Commissioner Barr knows how important these projects are to our quality of life and economic vitality and that is why he asked the state to provide funding for them. There is only one problem: Over the last four years, the previous governor raided the state's Transportation Trust Fund for $500 million to balance the budget, leaving the till dry.

That is one reason the governor called a special session: To make transportation funding a statewide priority again. During the session, we have heard from business groups, transportation advocates, and local officials, who all talked about the state's $40 billion in unmet transportation needs.

They warned that if we don't take action to restore funding, we will undermine our quality of life and economic vitality. Many recommended raising the gas tax to pay for road projects.

I oppose raising the gas tax. But being against raising a tax does not get the road paved. Knowing we need transportation money in Washington County, I joined a majority of the House of Delegates and voted to raise the sales tax and vehicle titling fees by one penny and to dedicate more than $450 million a year to transportation.

It would have been easy to vote "no" because enough lawmakers from urban districts supported the bill to ensure its passage. But it would have been irresponsible to let liberals from Montgomery County and Baltimore City control how those funds will be spent.

By voting for the transportation bill, I made sure Washington County would have a seat at the table and our priorities would be protected.

The transportation package also included funding for 12 new Maryland State Police helicopters. Those helicopters will replace the existing fleet, which is used to transport the most critically injured patients from around the state to Shock Trauma units.

I am proud to represent Hagerstown in the House of Delegates, and I will never hesitate to stand up and protect our interests in Annapolis.

It is not easy to vote for new revenue - but it would be even harder to jeopardize our quality of life by voting against funding for transportation and emergency medical services.

As the only member of the Washington County delegation to support and vote for the governor's proposals, I am proud to stand up and deliver for Washington County.

John Donoghue is the District
2C delegate to the Maryland
General Assembly.

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