How to fix Md.'s aging infrastructure

Maryland should look to the example of other states for solutions

Recent Sun articles and editorials have pointed the way forward for Maryland's aging infrastructure ("States scramble as federal highway funding erodes," Feb. 21).

Reporter John Fritze revealed that federal highway funding for Maryland had fallen by nearly 7 percent since 2008, a loss of some $587 million. Despite this shortfall, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has indicated he plans to roll back the increase in the state gasoline tax instituted by his Democratic predecessor.

The see-saw battle between Republicans and Democrats over the gas tax illustrates Albert Einstein's definition of insanity: "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result."

It is precisely for this reason that Maryland Rep. John K. Delaney's proposal to create a $750 billion federal fund to "rebuild and expand America's neglected public infrastructure" was so welcome.

Mr. Delaney, who has a background in finance, would allow companies like Apple to repatriate foreign profits by bidding on bonds that could be leveraged into $750 billion of infrastructure loans or guarantees.

If Mr. Delaney's bill eventually makes it through Congress — it has attracted co-sponsors in both houses — Maryland would receive its needed share of loans. Professor Einstein, no doubt, would approve of this "out of the box" thinking.

Columnist Dan Rodricks also recently lamented the fact that citizens are in denial about the condition of our roads and that fixing them will require new taxes at a time when real incomes for middle-class Marylanders have been stagnant for decades.

Maryland should look to the example of other states for innovative solutions to its budgetary problems. In 2010, California Gov. Jerry Brown inherited a deficit of $25 billion. Two years later, he won overwhelming approval for tax increases on California's wealthiest residents, which allowed him to turn that deficit into a $4.2 billion budget surplus and restore many neglected state services.

Similarly, Gov. Mark Dayton of Minnesota instituted a 25 percent increase in state income tax on wealthy individuals (including himself), along with a number of other progressive reforms. Despite scary rhetoric from his opponents warning of an exodus of businesses, Minnesota added about 175,000 jobs to its economy between 2011 and 2015, compared with just 7,000 jobs added during the entire eight-year term of his fiscally conservative predecessor.

Hopefully, Maryland's new governor will take heed of these successful approaches to balancing the budget while adding jobs and services and not simply resort to austerity measures that fail to improve education, infrastructure or the state's economy.

Joe Garonzik, Baltimore

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