The organization will be lobbying for that during the 2018 Md. General Assembly session.
Annapolis, Md (KM). Officials with the Maryland Municipal League will be lobbying for restoration of highway user revenues for cities and towns around the state. The funds, also known as the gas tax, are used by municipalities to pay for road repair and maintenance. The state took away 96% of this money in fiscal year 2010 to help balance its budget during the recession. Since then, the MML and individual cities and towns have been fighting to get it back.
Ryan Spiegel, the Chairman of the MML’s Legislative Committee, says cities and towns desperately need these funds. “The impact is very real on residents because cities like Frederick then have to figure out how to either divert funds from some other important programs in their budget to pay for pothole repair and other road work, or either increase taxes because they’re not getting that money from the state,” he says.
Spiegel also says the cities and towns could defer much needed maintenance for an indeterminate time. “The residents need to be engaging their state legislators to get them to give us back this money,” he says.
Not returning the highway user fund revenue to cities and towns amounts to a double taxation, according to Spiegel. “If you’re getting taxed at the pump by the state, and that money is supposed to come back to Frederick to pay for road maintenance. But then you also have to get taxed by the City of Frederick because they’re not getting the money from the state that they need to pay for the roads so they have to get it somewhere else,” he says.
(Mayor Randy McClement says he’s not raised taxes throughout his eight years in office, even during the depths of the recession.)
Spiegel acknowledges the General Assembly provided some of those funds in 2017, but it was only 62% of what the cities and towns would normally see during a fully funded year. “The problem is that those portions that we are given each year are discretionary one-time grants, sort of a consolation prize from the state,” he says. And there’s no guarantee those funds will be provided the next year.
Under the Maryland Transportation Code, the state is required to return a portion of the gas tax it collects to the cities, towns and the counties which is then used for local road repair and maintenance.
Spiegel says the MML and its members will push the 2018 Maryland General Assembly to restore full funding the local municipalities. “It’s an election year, an opportunity to remind our state representatives of the importance of this issue as they’re trying to court votes for re-election as new candidates are trying to get involved in that race,” he says. “So we’re intending to make this a key issue of the 2018 election campaign as well.”
By Kevin McManus