Friday, September 19, 2008

What Are Our Priorities?

As we look at the likelihood of furloughs for our employees and probably deeper cuts than we had previously thought, we are forced to examine our priorities. For every County program, someone benefits, and someone stands to lose when we make cuts, which we inevitably will. A cut in library hours is unacceptable to many County residents, but so is a reduction in housing assistance or the number of cops on the street. So are furloughs of hardworking employees, for that matter.

Some have suggested halting major infrastructure projects, while the State budget cuts have virtually assured delays to several transportation projects. With programs, such as summer camps, we see the benefit of spending almost immediately. With infrastructure, though, we face delayed gratification even in the best of circumstances. What’s worse, we don’t feel the pain of a poor choice until it is way too late. If a transportation project takes ten years from concept to completion, and we delay that project for a year or two or even more, then we create a bigger mess down the road, so to speak.

It’s tough spot, and we’ll be discussing it for at least this budget year, probably longer. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’m looking at some funding options. Take a look, and let me know what you think. New revenue options or cuts to service? Where do we go from here?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What Maryland's Transportation Funding Cuts Mean to Us

What can I say? This is devastating news to Montgomery County. While transportation continues to be the top priority for Montgomery County residents, we’ve been hit with huge cuts to transportation funding from the State of Maryland.

Our number one congestion relief project--the construction of an interchange to replace the stoplights at Georgia Avenue and Randolph Road--will be delayed at least three years.

Our two major transit projects, the Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway, represent the backbone of our transportation future, but they were slashed by $25 million (19%) and $42.5 million (47%) respectively over the next six years.

Also on the chopping block:
RideOn Grant: The $5M that was added from ’09 revenue increase has been taken away
BRAC: Was to receive an additional $45M but is now cut by $16M
Montgomery Hills Project Planning Study: The $3M was cut altogether
I-270 Watkins Mill Interchange: Cut by $6.5M

Certainly I support transit everywhere all the time, but I’m a little puzzled that the Baltimore Red Line was cut by only $17.6 million (7%) over the next six years and got additional money for fiscal years 2010-2012 to keep the project on schedule.

There’s a lot to work through, but you can bet that I will continue to stand up for road and transit funding. Tune in to the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee on September 15 as we take on these important issues. I’m mulling some ideas based on the Working Group on Infrastructure Financing Report from last October and my June forum on the county’s reliance on the property tax. We’ve got some big decisions ahead, and this is one of those cases where choosing to do nothing is still a big choice. Take a look at these reports, and let me know what you think.