Democrats Find Religion on Transportation

After voting for Transportation Trust Fund transfers every year under Martin O’Malley, Democrats have decided that now is the time to get serious on fully funding transportation.

As part of his common-sense legislative agenda, Governor Larry Hogan is supporting legislation to roll back some of the gas tax increase that O’Malley and legislative Democrats railroaded through the General Assembly. The bill wouldn’t actually cut the gas tax already in place, but it would cancel the remaining gas tax increase and eliminate the continued increases in the gas tax that were to be indexed to inflation.

Needless to say, Democrats are having a conniption fit over the idea:

Democratic leaders are fiercely resisting the governor’s bill, saying it and other funding changes that Hogan is proposing would be a fatal blow for the light-rail Purple Line in the Washington region and kill most major road improvements across the state that are not underway.

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“I don’t know who he’s expecting to vote for this,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel). “If this bill passes, it would leave you barely enough money for filling potholes.”…

…Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said Hogan’s gas-tax legislation stands no chance of passage in his chamber. He described the bill as an effort by Hogan — who is also fighting the legislature over school funding — to be able to say that he attempted to fulfill his campaign promise to deliver broad tax relief.

“He wants to tell his constituents that he tried and the Democrats thwarted him,” Miller said.

The focus from Miller and Busch is on the idea that there would not be enough transportation dollars left over fully fund infrastructure maintenance and improvements. They assume, of course, that the Hogan Administration won’t be able to find efficiencies in the Department of Transportation that will save money (which they will). And they also assume that the State will continue to fund other discretionary projects at their current level. That’s something that I think is safe to say will not actually happen. There are plenty of efficiencies across state government

The funny thing about the gas tax increase is the fact that so few Marylanders will actually benefit from it. As I wrote back in July:

Busch and Miller’s main protestations have nothing to do with highway infrastructure and everything to do with protecting the “loco loco”, the Purple Line that is the precious for so many Maryland Democrats.

Oddly, transportation infrastructure is one of the few functions of government that Republicans can actually get behind. Transportation infrastructure is essential to the functioning of our State, both in the private sector and in the public sector. But Democrats believe that the focus should be on transportation options that benefit only their Democratic constituencies. Miller, Busch, and their members really believe in taking money  from the less well off  (in the form of higher gas taxes) to pass on the benefits to the upper class Marylanders in urban areas (in the form of subsidizing mass transit). Governor Hogan (and most reasonable Marylanders) realize that the focus needs to be on our road and highway infrastructure. That better roads will eliminate traffic, improve business, and even improve the environment through fewer idling engines.

The benefits of a lower gas tax are very clear, however: all Marylanders will have more money in their pocket with lower gas taxes.  But lower gas taxes also mean lower prices for consumer products, more commerce, and more job opportunities for Marylanders of all socioeconomic statuses. Why are Mike Miller and Mike Busch opposed to that?

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