Transportation panel backs ticket surcharge

An average of $20 would be added to fines for moving violations

November 26, 2003|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

A commission studying how to pay for Maryland's transportation needs recommended last night that the state tack an average $20 surcharge on tickets for moving violations in order to repay $300 million diverted to help balance its budget.

The new proposal, recommended to the panel by the state Transportation Department, was the only specific revenue-generating measure endorsed by the task force headed by former Transportation Secretary William K. Hellmann.

The panel decided by consensus to endorse the department's goal of increasing capital spending on transportation by $4.7 billion over the next six years - a target that would require an additional $1.8 billion in revenue over that period.

However, the commission decided to leave the issue of how to raise that $300 million a year to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and the General Assembly. The panel instead will send the governor what it called a "matrix" of possible revenue sources.

Hellmann said the panel agreed that it would be unfair to ask the legislators on the commission to vote for any specific revenue measure before the legislative session starts in January.

Ehrlich has said he would defer any decision on whether to support an increase in the state's 23 1/2 -cent-a-gallon gasoline tax or other revenue-raising measures until he sees the commission's final report.

Last night's meeting was apparently the panel's last. Members agreed not to meet again unless serious disagreements emerged over the draft report.

After the meeting, Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan would give no timetable on when the governor would make a decision about taxes and fees.

In addition to the revenue suggestion, the panel also passed the issue of whether there should be a dedicated, long-term funding source for mass transit to a possible future commission.

It also put off consideration of the demand by rural legislators that the state erect a "firewall" that would restrict the use of any added revenue from motorists to road projects.

Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus, a panel member from the Eastern Shore, said the lack of a firewall recommendation could make it difficult for Republican senators to support any tax or fee increases.

The department projects it would raise $200 million over 10 years from a ticket surcharge.

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