Maryland Senate president says he's open to changing transportation scoring law, if governor asks

"If you're going to build [roads] to Podunk U or to Dogpatch ... you need to tell the citizens why."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said Wednesday that he's open to making changes to a transportation scoring law detested by Gov. Larry Hogan, but hasn't heard any ideas for a compromise from the administration.

Instead, Hogan has introduced a bill that would repeal whole law, which requires transportation officials to rank projects and offer a public justification if they decide to fund a lower-ranked project over a better-scoring one.

Miller told his colleagues in the Senate he'd "offered to the administration half a dozen times" to entertain changes to the law.

"Nodody's got to me yet," Miller said.

Doug Mayer, a spokesman for Hogan, said the governor and Senate president have spoken about the issue, but that the governor is clear, "repeal happens first."

"It's great to hear the Senate president is finally starting to see the light on the need to get rid of this disastrous legislation," Mayer said.

The Calvert County Democrat told reporters that if the governor wants, he'd be open to removing the public justification requirement from the law.

"The governor quite frankly doesn't want to say 'I'm building a road to West Virginia, I'm building a road to Delaware' while the people are sitting on the Washington Beltway and the Baltimore Beltway and can't get to work," Miller said.

"Governor, you build roads where you think you need to build them, but if you're going to build them to Podunk U or to Dogpatch, we need to understand that, you need to tell the citizens why.

"But if you don't want to tell them why, fine, tell me that and I'll repeal that aspect of the bill."

In a radio interview this month, Miller questioned prioritizing the West Virginia road — I-81— before saying that he backed it "1,000 percent."

Hogan, a Republican, has said the law requires him to halt virtually every road construction project in the state. General Assembly Democrats and the Maryland Attorney General's Office disagree with that characterization.

Hogan has also said that the justification requirement could mire projects in litigation.

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