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Stop lawmakers' raids on state highway funds

April 17, 2008

The state's timing to undercut the need for transportation investments to serve the influx of base realignment (BRAC) jobs and other important highway and transit projects couldn't be worse.

Legislative action to siphon $50 million a year from the Transportation Trust Fund for the next five years only aggravates the dishonest theft of motorists' gas tax payments that has gone on for more than two decades. More than $1 billion dollars was transferred from the Transportation Trust Fund into the General Fund to balance the state budget.

Monies raided by the most recent previous administration totaled more than $538 million dollars, and the money that is being returned does not include $223 million dollars in local highway user funds, plus interest, that could have been be used by local governments.

It should be noted that the funds currently earmarked for return to the Transportation Fund over the next three years must be used for only one project, the Intercounty Connector, that links Interstate 270 in Montgomery County with Interstate 95 in Laurel.

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Motorists are justifiably incensed when the Transportation Trust Fund is raided to spend gas tax revenues collected at the pump for general fund expenses, not tangible transportation projects.

The failure of leadership on this issue is clear: Gas tax and inflation index enhancements could be viewed as sound public policy, but only if the governor and the legislature act to create a state constitutional firewall that requires, within a reasonable timeframe, the repayment of Transportation Trust Fund dollars that have been transferred to the general fund to balance the budget.

John R. Leopold
County Executive
Anne Arundel, Md.

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