From State Sen. Robert Cassilly:
The “Road Kill Bill” that Governor Hogan wants to eliminate is confusing. It was designed that way by the same Washington, D.C. metro legislators in Annapolis who previously voted to eliminate the smaller counties’ annual share of the gas tax revenue ($20million/year for Harford alone) so those funds would be redirected to projects in the D.C. region. The bill, now a law, is really a raw political power grab masquerading as science and it essentially works like this:
All transportation projects over $5 million that are located in any of the four largest counties are put into a pot for State funding. Any of the other 20 counties can then try to bump one of those projects from the pot and replace it with their own project by playing the three step bump game.
In step one of the game, the bumping county spends lots of money to employ outside consultants to conduct 23 studies required by the law for each project. Each of those studies produces a numerical raw score. That raw score is then multiplied by the percentage that county represents of the statewide population. The final scores of the bumping projects are then compared to the scores of the projects already in the pot to see which projects score higher. Because the final scores are so heavily weighted in favor of large population centers and mass transit, the bumping counties’ projects will inevitably score lower and no bump will occur as a result of step one. Apparently, the primary purpose of this step is to add an atmosphere of scientific legitimacy to a political power grab. The expensive studies also serve as a strong financial deterrent to the smaller counties who might consider challenging the pot.
In step two, the law allows the Governor to make his own substitution for projects in the pot if he can provide what the law calls a “rational basis” for a substitution. No one yet knows what constitutes a “rational basis” for a substitution, but it is debatable that a “political basis,” such as simple fairness to the other 20 counties, will serve as a “rational basis” as envisioned by sponsors in the General Assembly.
In step three, the game enters the realm of the unknown. It would appear that in this step any of the four large counties whose projects are bumped from the pot can file a lawsuit, or threaten such a suit, claiming that the Governor’s stated reason for the bump was not a proper “rational basis.” The Governor can then either cave into the large county or he can stand his ground, in which case the matter goes to court and the judicial branch of government becomes a de facto legislature as the ultimate decision maker in a substantially less fair, considerably more complex, far more cumbersome, and noticeably less transparent budgetary process.
The long established process by which road projects have been determined has served our State well for many years. In that process, local jurisdictions provided their input and the Governor, who is elected by all of the citizens, determined priorities based upon local input and the need to build effective, statewide transportation networks. The Governor then submitted a proposed budget to the General Assembly for funding. There were no complaints about that process until Governor Hogan was elected and began pushing for a more equitable distribution of projects, statewide. That angered the counties along the D.C. beltway who were incensed by Gov. Hogan’s refusal to bow to their demands to dedicate gas tax revenue to projects around Washington, D.C.
Our citizens deserve a fair road construction process. The Road Kill law needs to be repealed.
Senator Bob Cassilly