Speeches & Testimonies FTwitterYouTube  
For Immediate Release: 2/20/2013
Statement by Isiah Leggett, Montgomery County Executive Regarding Senate Bill 830, Transportation Financing Act; Senate Budget and Taxation Committee

I want to thank Senate President Mike Miller for taking the important step of introducing a comprehensive transportation financing plan. While we may not agree on the options selected, the Senate President’s plan creates the opportunity for a serious discussion to take place about the need to invest in our State’s transportation infrastructure.

There never seems to be an opportune time to raise taxes, particularly the gas tax, which has not been raised since 1992.

The Legislature decided against an increase when it was last discussed in 2007. Other revenues were raised instead and, not long thereafter, a near world financial collapse sunk us into a deep recession that resulted in huge losses to the Transportation Trust Fund that already had diminished capacity to fund transportation needs. This had a devastating effect. In fact, in 2007, the Washington region ranked second behind Los Angeles as having the worst traffic congestion in the nation. Now, we have the dubious distinction of being number one.

This committee has heard from me on this issue, year in and year out. I believe now, more than ever, we are at a tipping point – one that Virginia has also finally realized – that in both rural and urban areas, the lack of any new investment in transportation has taken its toll, from a quality of life and economic development perspective.

We cannot solve these problems overnight and we certainly cannot solve them by “going it alone.” Developing and maintaining transportation infrastructure has to be a partnership – and Montgomery County is doing its part. For example, on an annual basis we operate a bus system that carries 90,000 passengers every week day at a cost in excess of $100 million a year.

In addition, our list of transportation priorities reflects funds already spent and planned County investments totaling nearly $300 million – for transportation projects that by definition are the State’s responsibility.

Why are we doing this? Because we had no choice!

Our needs alone are daunting. Montgomery County’s four priority projects, without full build outs, require over a billion dollars of State investment. One of these projects is the Watkins Mill Interchange located in the I-270 corridor, which, once completed, will result in the addition of nearly 15,000 new jobs.

I know what some of you may be thinking – “please, feel free to invest your own money on State transportation projects. Your transit and failed intersection needs aren’t our problem.” I would argue that they are, particularly if the Washington region is going to continue to be depended upon to be a key economic engine and creator of jobs for the State. All of our new master plans require transportation investments. These plans, and the jobs they will create, cannot move forward without this investment, which the State must partner in.

With Northern Virginia’s HOT lanes that opened in the fall and the Silver Line opening next year, the regional competitive landscape for the Washington region has shifted. And, we are closely following the Virginia debate, which could very well produce a comprehensive funding plan by the end of the week.

Now is the time – this is the year – for Maryland to reach a consensus on a plan that will produce significant and sustainable State revenues for transportation investment in this State. The State’s economic future depends on it.

Release ID: 13-005

» Return to Statements