Over the weekend, I was asked an important question by a well-respected journalist. Candy Crowley asked me if our economy is improving, why is it necessary to consider revenue generating options (such as raising Maryland’s gasoline tax) to invest in our aging infrastructure.
In a word, the answer is jobs. To create jobs, a modern economy requires modern investments. That isn’t a Democratic or Republican idea, it’s an American idea; an historic and economic truth that we have proved out time and again as a people.
If we neglect to close our investment deficit in Maryland’s infrastructure, we end up paying in so many other ways. We pay in lost productivity; in rush hour traffic in some sections of 495 that are more parking lot than highway; in an immobilized workforce; in a damaged environment; and in a hindered ability to create jobs and attract new business and opportunity to Maryland.
To close this investment deficit we have to acknowledge 5 truths:
- The Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding concluded that we need to make an additional investment of more than $800 million more a year in transportation. But the fact of the matter is that the current pace of our investments is not sufficient to meet those needs.
- A traditional flat tax on gasoline, by itself, actually becomes a declining revenue source when the new generation of cars and trucks that are being designed are built to use less and less gasoline.
- For decades, both the Greater Baltimore and Greater Washington regions have been underserved as far as our public transit needs go–that’s why we’re advancing the Purple Line and the Red Line. Neither of these projects is free.
- Five years ago, our State’s Transportation Authority was actually under-leveraged. No more. For the first time in our State’s history, five years ago, we decided together, to embark on the ICC and also the Section 100 widening of I-95 through Baltimore County at the same time.
- The recession knocked $2 billion out of our $10.5 billion transportation plan. The Recovery and Reinvestment Act that President Obama rightly advanced, restored 600 million. But at the end of the day, we still have $1.4 billion less than we had anticipated.
Whether we pay for our infrastructure or whether we pay in so many other ways, the choice is ours. In the coming months, we will begin a dialogue with the people of Maryland on how to move forward.