Maryland bill would freeze road fund

| Tuesday, January 06, 2004

A proposal in the Maryland House would freeze the state’s Transportation Trust Fund over concerns that the governor may increase the fuel tax to pay for road improvements.

The bill sponsor, Delegate John R. Leopold, told The Washington Times the legislation would prohibit the transfer of money from the trust fund to the general fund. It would require a state constitutional amendment and voter approval for passage.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. took $300 million from the trust fund when he took office last year to balance a nearly $2 billion shortfall left by the previous administration, the newspaper reported.

The governor must still present a budget before the General Assembly convenes Jan. 14 that includes a plan to reduce the remaining $786 million shortfall.

Leopold, R-Pasadena, estimates more than $700 million in the past two decades has been transferred from the trust fund to balance the state budget. He also said $70 million has never been repaid.

The state has not raised the fuel tax in over a decade, and a transportation fund task force is looking for a way to generate $300 million by 2010 to fund new projects, Leopold said.

He said lawmakers are also talking about increasing vehicle registration and titling fees.

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