Thursday, December 15, 2016

Hogan Spars With Democrats Over Transportation Law

Governor Larry has stated his "top priority" next year will be to seek the repeal of legislation which he says will require him to stop work on dozens of transportation projects in Maryland.

In a statement, Governor Hogan stated that he would submit "emergency legislation" repeal the bill passed by the 2016 General Assembly over Hogan's Veto which requires him to "rank" all transportation projects in the state.  “It will wreak havoc on the entire state transportation system and usurp important authority away from local governments and away from the executive branch of state government, giving authority instead to lobbyists and special interest groups."

The legislation, which Hogan described as a "Road Kill" law, created a "scoring system" for transportation projects and required the State to rank all transportation projects according to that system.  "Under the legislatively mandated scoring system, 66 out of 73 transportation projects are fully canceled"

Democratic lawmakers have argued that the bill does not kill any projects and that the final decision as to what is funded is with the Governor.  Democratic leadership have stated that the purpose of the legislation is to bring more transparency to the process of deciding which state transportation projects receive funding.   Sen. Roger Manno,  (D-Montgomery), argued that "We're just trying to get this done," "I'm from Montgomery County — we can accept it if we don't get a project we want," he said. "We just want to know why."

Hogan and Republican legislators have charged that the law was intended to tie the governor's hands by forcing him to subject each project to the scoring system, and to justify funding for any project that didn't score at the top of the formula.  Republican lawmakers and representatives of some rural counties have claimed that the scoring system is weighted toward mass-transit projects and against projects located in rural areas outside major urban centers.  "The bill says mass transit only," State Sen. Andrew Serafini (R-Washington County) argued "It's messing with all but two jurisdictions. My push is we gotta repeal."

The rankings include factors such as whether projects enhances existing community assets and increase accessibility to jobs.  Speaker of the House Michael Busch argued "The people of Maryland want a transparent government where they understand how politicians are spending their money. The law requires the Governor to simply explain his spending decisions, not hide behind them.

In a letter to the Baltimore Sun, incoming GOP chairman Dick Haire criticized the legislation as "Partisan Overreach", and pointed out that of the 31 "goals and measures" the MDOT was required to use to rank projects "none of those 31 factors is to reduce traffic congestion.", stating "Maryland's new law doesn't even use the term "congestion."

Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn stated "The one-size-fits-all ranking system mandated by this law is wrong for Maryland drivers, wrong for employers relying on needed improvements to local roads and bridges, wrong for tourists and visitors traveling to our state, and wrong for Maryland taxpayers who expect their dollars to be spent in an fair and equitable manner on projects that will improve their daily lives”.