The transportation gap

Taylor's plan: House speaker is right to seek sales tax revenue for state's future mass transit needs.

March 07, 2000

GOV. Parris N. Glendening and key legislators are passing on a golden opportunity by refusing to use this time of financial plenty to dedicate general revenues to bolster Maryland's mass transit system.

It is a head-in-the-sand approach that could haunt the governor's successors. His own task force concluded that Maryland is $27 billion -- yes, billion -- short of the funds needed over the next 20 years to pay for basic transportation projects.

Yet Mr. Glendening refuses to consider a sensible proposal by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. to shift general-fund revenue into the transportation trust fund as a first, significant step toward closing that $27 billion gap.

Speaker Taylor wants to dedicate a penny out of every five-cent sales-tax levy to mass transit. He'd phase it in over 10 years at roughly $50 million more each year. This would be a tremendous shot in the arm for Maryland's lagging mass transit budget, making essential new light-rail lines possible in the Baltimore area.

The Taylor plan also mirrors the governor's Smart Growth objectives.

If Maryland is to double mass-transit ridership by 2020, as Mr.Glendening wishes, the governor had better come up with a huge, ongoing infusion of new money for new rail projects.

So far, the governor has earmarked surplus funds for specific mass-transit projects, such as rebuilding the Woodrow Wilson Bridge over the Potomac River and subway extensions in the Washington suburbs. But he has failed to commit to an ongoing, permanent diversion of general funds to mass- transit operations.

What will it take for the governor to seize this crucial opportunity to make mass transit better for everyone in the Baltimore region?

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