Promises Made, Promises Kept

Today, Governor Larry Hogan fulfilled one of the most important promises he made on the campaign trail:

The Maryland Transportation Authority’s board on Thursday reduced tolls statewide at the urging of Gov. Larry Hogan — mostly for E-ZPass drivers but also for those who pay cash at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

The $6 cash toll to cross the Bay Bridge will drop to $4 on July 1, in what Hogan called the first toll decrease in the state in nearly 50 years. Those with E-ZPass will see reductions at toll facilities across the state the same day, from the Bay Bridge to the bridges and tunnels around Baltimore, and the E-ZPass fee of $1.50 for Maryland residents with fewer than three transactions a month will be ended.

Mileage rates will be decreased on the Intercounty Connector and the express toll lanes on Interstate 95 north of Baltimore, and certain toll reductions will also fall into place for small-business and commercial truck drivers, including those who work out of the port of Baltimore.

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It’s hard to underestimate the importance that today’s rollback of Maryland tolls has on the economy of our state, particularly on our more rural areas of the state. Southern Maryland, Northeastern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore were particularly hard hit by the higher tolls that Martin O’Malley and his fellow Democrats implemented back in 2013. Combined with the higher gas taxes they also championed, O’Malley and the Democrats took millions out of our state economy in an effort not to improve roads, but to provide additional funding to subsidize mass transit projects for their Democratic constituencies.

Needless to say, liberal Democrats are particularly appalled by the fact that Governor Hogan would follow through on his promise to return $54 million to taxpayers:

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, meanwhile, called the toll reductions “good politics, but bad policy,” said they would threaten the long-planned replacement of the Nice bridge and the overall health of Maryland’s infrastructure, and criticized Hogan for not providing him and other legislative leaders more information on the plans in advance of the MdTA board’s approving them.

Truth be told, the toll reductions are both good politics and good policy. In the long-run, the toll rollbacks will actually provided more money into the economy, spur more economic growth, and increase state revenues based on the additional purchasing power of consumers and higher gas tax revenues based on longer trips, particularly to the Eastern Shore. This will allow the development of more jobs on the Eastern Shore and in Cecil County, and will reduce the cost of traveling to Ocean City for all Maryland families.

The Democrats are in quite a bind here. While they are furious that Governor Hogan would follow through on his promise to cut taxes because of the cut to the transportation budget, they were notoriously silent for all of those years in which 97% of Maryland Legislative Democrats voted to raid the Transportation Trust Fund during the O’Malley years.  While these Democrats may have found religion on transportation funding, it doesn’t change the fact that the transportation revenue shortfalls were their fault.

But the Democrats also aren’t seeing the whole field. While they moan about revenue cuts and lament projects such as the re-decking of the Nice Bridge, they also don’t take into account that the State could very well privatize these projects and save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by doing so in the process. As you know I have long been a champion of privatizing transportation maintenance and construction. By doing so, we could save the taxpayers money and complete these necessary projects with less revenue, less cost, and without raising tolls in the immediate future. And while MDTA Board Member Michael Whitson claims that these toll cuts will cripple efforts to replace the Nice Bridge, he assumes that it has to be a project funded by taxpayers and not built by a private contractor who has bid on the project with the state.

Governor Hogan is continuing to prove to Marylanders why they made the right choice in voting for him. He’s keeping the promises he made to the voters of Maryland, and he’s making Maryland a more affordable place to live and work.

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