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Hogan finds money for local highway aid

Gov. Larry Hogan took a step toward keeping a campaign promise Tuesday as he found $25 million to switch into highway aid for local jurisdictions.

Doug Mayer, Hogan's deputy communications director, said the money would come from a pool of cash that has not been otherwise allocated.

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Hogan had disappointed counties and municipalities when he released next year's budget plan Jan. 22 -- a day after his inauguration -- when local officials found that less money would be available in local highway aid than this year. The governor had used the same formula used this year -- resulting in nearly level funding -- but had cut the $16 million the General Assembly appropriated from the general fund to supplement the formula.

The aid, known as highway user revenues, is used for maintenance and upgrades of roads that are not on the state highway system. Baltimore City, the counties and municipalities throughout the state depend heavily on them for such routing projects as filling potholes and repaving streets.

Highway user revenue aid to local government was slashed by Gov. Martin O'Malley during the recession and never returned to former levels during his tenure. Hogan promised local officials during the campaign that he would restore highway spending to their former levels in his first budget.

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Tuesday's move does not achieve that, but Mayer said the infusion of $25 million will bring local highway spending to its highest level since the 2009 budget year. He said it was the first step toward Hogan keeping his pledge on highway user revenues.

Because the money does not come from the general fund, it will not affect plans to balance next year's budget.

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