Wednesday, December 19, 2007

That's Nice, But Where Are You Getting the Money?

Lt. Governor Anthony Brown is promising billions to pay for BRAC projects. But not so fast.

At an event marking the release of Maryland’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) report, Brown announced an ambitious plan to pay billions for education and transportation needs. The money is needed to adjust the state’s infrastructure to accommodate thousands of new jobs created by the military’s shifting of more capacity into Maryland. Brown’s proposal includes $1.6 billion for 26 transportation projects, with half the money due for projects to commence next year.

But wait – where is the money coming from? In the recent special session, the General Assembly turned down a proposal from the Governor to raise the gas tax. Instead, they chose to devote a portion of the sales tax increase to transportation. Of the estimated $400 million in annual funds generated by the legislature, roughly $250 million would go to maintenance of existing capacity. That leaves $150 million for new projects, or about the cost of one interchange project per year. That’s right – one interchange. In the entire state. Per year. That prompted some Montgomery County politicians to float the idea of a local gas tax for transportation.

No one denies Maryland’s transportation needs. The BRAC projects are another addition to a long list including Baltimore’s Red Line, Montgomery County’s Purple Line and Corridor Cities Transitway, and countless much-beloved little projects. But in the aftermath of the special session, the General Assembly may have little appetite for more tax hikes. So where are they getting the money for BRAC?

Transportation funding is a huge budgetary issue that is not going away. Stay tuned.

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