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Regional authorities proposed to finance transit

A bill that would create a task force to study the creation of regional transit financing authorities met with little opposition in the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.

Proposed by Del. Mary-Dulany James, D-Harford, the bill comes after the recommendation last November by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding that a study be conducted to assess the potential revenue that could be generated from regional transit authorities.

James argued that regional transit authorities must be considered at the same time as Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed gas sales tax, which could add 18 cents per gallon.

With the exception of New Jersey, Maryland is the only state that does not have regional transit authorities.

“I think [the study] would be a smart, efficient, regionally focused option and part of a global way in which we’re going to have to deal with transportation in the 21st century,” said James.

Several testified in support of the bill, including Allyson Black of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. Black said that the bill would help ensure transit has a dedicated source of funding as the state struggles for revenue in the years ahead.

Although the bill would only authorize a task force to study the option of transit authorities, those who testified in support of the bill showed equal support for the actual creation of transit authorities. In other states, these authorities are funded by regional sales taxes, among other methods.

Pete Horrigan of the Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors Association stated that Maryland is the only state to have two mass transit systems paid for almost entirely by highway users. Horrigan called the present system unsustainable.

“This would be a great start to study the issue with full seriousness,” Horrigan added.

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