Del. Brooke Lierman, a Baltimore Democrat, recently embarked on a familiar disingenuous crusade to shame Gov. Larry Hogan and the Maryland Transit Administration for not spending enough on transit projects, particularly in the city (”Maryland is a public transit leader for the wrong reasons: It’s No. 1 in breakdowns,” Dec. 17). What she fails to mention is that Gov. Martin O’Malley balanced the budget during the Great Recession at the expense of the Transportation Trust Fund, diverting 23% of its revenues to the General Fund during fiscal years 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Since 2010, Governor O’Malley and the Democratic-controlled General Assembly reduced the disbursement of highway user revenue to local governments (all counties and municipalities outside of Baltimore) from 15% to only 1.9% of total revenues. During the O’Malley administration, these funds were combined with a state gas tax increase tied to inflation, and diverted largely to fund the Red Line in Baltimore and the Purple Line outside of Washington, D.C. at the expense of everyone and everything else. Despite a 47.8% increase in state gas tax revenue, my home in Kent County received 89.4% less highway user funding in fiscal 2019 than in fiscal 2007. Road maintenance and repair projects in rural communities and small towns across the state have been put on perpetual hold for more than a decade now.
To put it into perspective, the state in fiscal 2019 provided a direct $27.9 million subsidy to fund bus transit in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties which is still more than the $27.8 million the state provided to all local governments (except Baltimore) for road maintenance and repair in the same year. Governor Hogan, to his credit, has tried to partially redress this imbalance by funding long delayed road projects across the entire state. I don’t dispute the fact that the working poor of Baltimore rely on public transit for work and everyday needs, but in rural areas our poor have no public transit options and in turn must rely solely on an automobile and largely county and town-maintained roadways.
If the delegate bothered looking outside of her beltway bubble, she might realize that some of the poorest communities in the state are in far-flung rural areas which are completely reliant on the automobile. Allegany County, for instance, has a median household income of only $37,747 which is $4,500 per year less than in Baltimore City at $42,241. We rural Marylanders are paying more in gas taxes and getting substantially less in return, so please don’t lecture us on not getting a large-enough share of transportation funding. Delegate Lierman, they name streets after you — one-way.
Jeremy J. Rothwell, Massey
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