January 31, 2011
Washington Examiner
Md. GOP says Montgomery should pay for Purple Line
By Hayley Peterson, Staff Writer
Maryland Republican senators say taxpayers in the Washington suburbs should pay for the planned Purple Line instead of sharing the costs with rural counties. “If people in Montgomery County want a Purple Line, let them pay for it,” said state Senate Minority Whip E.J. Pipkin, of the Eastern Shore.
The planned 16-mile light rail, which would connect New Carollton to Bethesda, would cost the state roughly $1.6 billion. A $1.8 billion high-speed rail — the “Red Line” — is planned for Baltimore.
Pipkin and Sen. David R. Brinkley, R-Frederick County, are drafting legislation that would create an independent taxing authority to collect revenues for the rails.
The bill would depend on the General Assembly to determine who would be taxed and what type of tax would be used.
“If you live — as I do — in a rural area, you don’t share those hopes and dreams of mass transit as you have in the urban areas,” Pipkin said Monday during a panel discussion on Maryland’s economy and infrastructure.
He said the state’s rural counties have dire transportation needs that aren’t being met by the dwindling pot of state transportation dollars allocated to road and bridge repair.
Gov. Martin O’Malley has cut local transportation funding by more than 95 percent in the last three years, and his fiscal 2012 budget includes additional cuts.
But Montgomery County officials say their constituents should not bear the brunt of the Purple Line costs.
“Wow, I thought we were one state,” said Councilman Marc Elrich, D-at large. “If I was in the state government, I’d be looking at how we serve all the constituents of the state.”
Sheila Hixson, D-Silver Spring, said the rails are intended to benefit residents statewide.
“There is a big swell in Annapolis that we should be paying a special tax for [the Purple Line],” said Hixson, who heads the House Ways and Means Committee. “We see it as a statewide transportation policy… and it should not segregate us by county.”
Brinkley referred to other cities — including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Denver — that direct a portion of sales tax revenue in areas surrounding mass transit to help pay for the transportation system’s operating costs.
“You cannot continue to count on the gas tax [revenues] funding those types of projects,” he said.
Lawmakers are counting on the federal government to fund more than 50 percent of the project’s cost.
hpeterson@washingtonexaminer.com