Two transportation bills heard in the House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee Wednesday would basically cancel each other out.
Delegate Nathaniel Oaks, D-Baltimore, proposed HB 842, which would grant free ridership on Maryland Transit Administration bus lines to all state employees of the judicial and legislative branches. Executive branch employees already receive free ridership thanks to a 1997 executive order.
Delegate Stephen Hershey, R-Queen Anne’s, is simultaneously sponsoring HB 1231, which would raise fares for average riders on MTA lines from $1.60 to $2.80.
The current benefit to executive branch employees costs MTA $1.45 million per year. Raising fares would generate $43.6 million in revenue in FY 2013.
Hershey wants to raise fares on MTA because it is currently subsidized by the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund, which is hard-pressed to fund needed transportation infrastructure projects in the state. The fund is so hard pressed that Gov. Martin O’Malley has proposed a 6 percent sales tax on gasoline to fund transportation infrastructure projects.
Hershey feels the subsidy that goes to MTA reduces the funds that could go to transportation projects in his district.
“I am against a 71 percent subsidization rate [of MTA] when I am being told there aren’t enough funds available for my county,” Hershey said.
Oaks said his bill is simply correcting a misinterpretation of the 1997 executive order. MTA misinterpreted an “executive order” as meaning free ridership for the “executive branch.”
“If you cannot allow everyone – all state employees, if you can’t treat them the same, cut them out,” Oaks told the committee.
His bill is about fairness and he doesn’t care if they take free ridership away from all three branches as long as they make it equal, he said.
During the hearing, Delegate Andrew Serafini, R-Washington, said it would be hard to pass a bill giving free ridership to government employees while simultaneously asking other residents to pay more.