Hogan presses Maryland counties to support repeal of transportation law

Gov. Hogan presses Maryland counties to help him overturn transportation "road kill" law.

Gov. Larry Hogan is pressing local politicians to support his effort to overturn a law that requires transportation projects to be ranked.

Hogan sent a letter to more than 250 county executives, county council members and mayors across the state last week calling the measure a "severely flawed and misguided bill" that needs to be repealed.

"This law imposes a one-size-fits-all system that does not recognize diverse regional needs or project goals across the state," Hogan wrote in the letter.

The governor included a list of transportation projects for each jurisdiction that he said would lose funding under the new scoring system.

Hogan has dubbed the law the "road kill bill" and made overturning it his top priority during this year's General Assembly session.

He has won some key support: the Maryland Association of Counties supports the governor's bill to repeal the law.

"Most local leaders and jurisdictions aren't in favor of this and support a repeal," said Doug Mayer, a spokesman for the governor. "We believe that the current process we have now is transparent and heavily based on what local governments tell us what they want."

Not all county officials are on Hogan's side.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz — who has opposed Hogan on a number of issues — wrote a letter to the governor on Monday that said it is "not factually correct" that six county projects would be cut due to the new scoring system.

Kamenetz cited a line in the bill that says the requirement to rank transportation projects should not "prohibit or prevent" funding for projects.

"The law simply requires the Governor to provide an advisory scoring process, letting the public understand how decisions are made and when road projects are funded," Kamenetz wrote. "The law even allowed your office to create the scoring system."

The state's Office of the Attorney General has issued advice saying the governor can still choose which projects to pay for, so long as he provides a "rational basis for the decision" in writing.

Kamenetz wrote that the governor's office has refused to provide information to back up the claim that the six county projects — including four on the Baltimore Beltway — would not be funded.

"Since you still refuse to provide that data, I can only assume that the 'scores' are simply a scare tactic," Kamenetz wrote.

Kamenetz is president of Maryland Association of Counties this year, but he wrote his letter to Hogan in his capacity as Baltimore County's executive, said Don Mohler, his spokesman.

Hogan vetoed the transportation scoring bill last year, and the Democrat-controlled legislature immediately overrode the veto which allowed the bill to become law. Hogan's bill to repeal the transportation law is due for its first General Assembly committee hearing on Feb. 22.

Kamenetz and Hogan, meanwhile, have tangled over numerous issues over the past year: the pace of adding air conditioning to schools the redevelopment of a county government building in Dundalk into a shopping center and eradication of tiny, swarming insects called midges on Back River.

Kamenetz, a Democrat, is weighing a run for governor against Hogan, a Republican, in 2018.

pwood@baltsun.com

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