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Op-ed

Restoring 'One Maryland'

The phrase "One Maryland" originated in the 1990s with Del. Casper Taylor, former speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates. Mr. Taylor frequently raised the "One Maryland" theme in legislative debates as a guiding principle that respected the entire state regardless of a legislator's representation from an urban, suburban or rural district in Maryland.

As legislators who served in the House with Speaker Taylor, we saw "One Maryland" become a dominant theme in governing Maryland for many years. It embraced a unified approach to policy development and budgeting and thus was successful in avoiding divisive political discourse that could easily devolve into a disrespectful trumpeting of the urban-rural divide.

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"One Maryland" was based upon the principle that the allocation of state resources should be balanced geographically in urban, suburban and rural parts of the state. It underscored the premise that the policies of state government should respect and respond to the needs of all citizens throughout Maryland. Unfortunately, "One Maryland" seems to have gone by the wayside. Last month, two committees in Annapolis demonstrated just how ugly the geographical rivalry between Maryland subdivisions can get.

Legislative hearings were held on the transportation policies that were recently announced by Gov. Hogan. After months of study, Gov. Hogan has directed $2 billion in highway construction as well as reduced tolls across the state.

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In addition, the Maryland Transit Administration acted under the mandate passed by the General Assembly that required a fare increase tied to the Consumer Price Index that will nudge transit revenues closer to the 35 percent farebox recovery demanded by legislators through statute.

By most accounts, Governor Hogan's choices have been perceived as a balanced approach to transportation policy. By building the Purple Line and by investing in major highways like I-95, I-270 and Md. Rt. 175 in Central Maryland, as well as Md. Rt. 404 on the Eastern Shore and U.S. Rt. 219 in Western Maryland, Governor Hogan has shown that his transportation priority is for projects that do the most good, not the ones that are politically expedient or favor special interest groups.

Despite the synchronized howls from predictable political critics, the governor has enjoyed support for his transportation policy from across Maryland, including leaders in Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties, two of our most urbanized jurisdictions. These accolades contrast sharply with the inaccurate statement of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz who said, "What was particularly disheartening was he shifted almost all of the money... to rural counties."

The fact is that Baltimore County will be the recipient of more than $500 million in funding in the Hogan administration's Consolidated Transportation Plan (CTP). In County Executive Kamenetz's efforts to join the partisan critics, he is missing the point of a "One Maryland" philosophy in state policy.

We applaud the initiative of Governor Hogan to rebalance Maryland's transportation expenditures. He is including the needs of Marylanders in more remote parts of the state who, like the citizens of Baltimore city and county, want safe, effective transportation solutions that connect their communities to jobs.

We recognize that much of the criticism of Governor Hogan is the result of his decision to cancel plans for the Red Line in Baltimore City. Based upon the Maryland Department of Transportation's evaluation, the Red Line was not a cost-effective project. It carried a huge risk of cost overruns. Governor Hogan's decision was based on a sober evaluation based on its lack of merit and risk to Maryland's fragile debt structure.

Investing in state roads is needed to keep our infrastructure sound and to provide for increased economic development opportunities. The misplaced criticism of Governor Hogan's careful decision making is a repudiation of the long standing concept of "One Maryland" that has served our state very well in transportation decisions as well as all deliberations of state policy. As we debate Maryland's transportation policy, we cannot fall into the trap of thinking that investment in rural areas comes at the expense of our metropolitan regions.

Maryland's leaders must recognize that over the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic shift of transportation dollars from roads to transit that has resulted in the underfunding of our critical infrastructure of roads and bridges.

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When Cas Taylor was speaker, transportation funding was split roughly equally between roads and transit. For example, in 1992 funding to the State Highway Administration had a slight edge of $422 million as compared to total transit funding of $368 million. In recent years, transit spending has exceeded road building by a greater than two-to-one margin, as represented by the Fiscal Year 2011 budget when roads received $468 million, compared to over $1 billion for transit.

Another way to state the growing divide between roads and transit is this: In the 20 year period described above from 1992 to 2012, funding for roads increased by 10 percent while transit spending grew by 180 percent.

As state and local leaders move forward and consider transportation and other major initiatives in months ahead, we should embrace the Hogan administration's philosophy of restoring the "One Maryland" concept in state decision-making. Our state can thrive economically if we remember that we are all neighbors and that we all want to meet the needs of our respective counties and municipalities, not at the expense of one another, but as "One Maryland."

Sen. George Edwards is a Republican representing Allegany and Garrett counties and parts of Washington County; his email is george.edwards@senate.state.md.us. Del. Robert L. Flanagan is a Howard County Republican; his email is bob.flanagan@house.state.md.us.


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