A new blue ribbon commission is scheduled to begin a series of hearings that could change how the state prioritizes and pays for transportation projects.
Gov. Wes Moore (D), Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) recently named the 31-member Maryland Commission on Transportation Revenue and Infrastructure Needs The commission is set to hold its first meeting on Aug. 24 in Annapolis.
The panel is charged with reviewing, evaluating and making recommendations on how transportation projects should be prioritized and funded.
Legislative leaders raised concerns earlier this year that the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which is partly funded by the state’s gas tax, is not keeping up with basic infrastructure maintenance needs much less new projects such as the Red Line. The trust fund already is projected to have a 10-year shortfall of $4 billion.
Meanwhile Moore announced the resurrection of the Red Line transit project in Baltimore and has called for ending annual automatic increases in the gas tax tied to inflation. Moore has offered no plan for decoupling the inflationary index from the gas tax but said he expects the legislature to address the issue after the transportation panel issues an interim report before the 2024 session.
Frank J. Principe Jr., senior vice president of Government Affairs and Strategic Partnerships at the University of Maryland Global Campus, chairs the panel. Principe was chief of staff to former state Transportation Secretary James T. Smith Jr.
“This commission has an immense responsibility, and a tremendous opportunity, to ensure that we are both maintaining our current transportation system in a state of good repair and building Maryland’s transportation future to prioritize access, equity, options and opportunity for all,” Principe said in a statement. “The state must make the necessary investments to accomplish its goals, and with the unwavering support of Governor Moore and legislative leadership, I know the members of this diverse commission are committed to help make that vision a reality.”
The panel will meet through the end of 2024. An interim report is expected by January.
Other members of the panel are:
- Antoine M. Thompson, executive director, Greater Washington Region Clean Cities Coalition
- Calvin Ball, Howard County executive, president of the Maryland Association of Counties. Ball also chairs the board of directors of the Baltimore Metropolitan Commission.
- Cathrin Banks, president, The Maryland and Delaware Railroad Company
- Charlie Scott, government relations officer, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
- Chrissy Nizer, administrator, Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration
- David Winstead, representing the Maryland Municipal League. He also serves on the Chevy Chase Village board of managers and is a member of the Maryland Aviation Commission, an attorney at Ballard Spahr and a former state transportation secretary.
- Greg Akerman, Northern Virginia Director for the Baltimore-DC-Metro Building Trades Council.
- Sen. Guy Guzzone (D-Howard), chair of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee
- Helene T. Grady, secretary of the Department of Budget and Management
- Holly Arnold, administrator, Maryland Transit Administration
- Del. Jessica Feldmark (D-Howard), chair House Ways and Means Revenues Subcommittee
- Jim Kercheval, executive director, Greater Hagerstown Committee, former two-term Washington County commissioner.
- Jon Haines, labor economist for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
- Jon M. Laria, managing partner of Ballard Spahr in Baltimore, board member of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance and a member of Gov. Wes Moore’s transition team.
- Josh Tulkin, director, Maryland Sierra Club
- Kevin Anderson, Maryland Department of Commerce secretary
- Del. Marc Korman (D-Montgomery), chair of the House Environment and Transportation Committee and sponsor of the House bill that created the commission
- Del. Mark Chang (D-Anne Arundel), vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee, chair of the House Appropriations Capital Budget Subcommittee
- Mary D. Kane, president and CEO Maryland Chamber of Commerce, former secretary of state under former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and Ehrlich’s 2010 lieutenant governor running mate.
- Sen. Melony G. Griffith (D-Prince George’s), chair of the Senate Finance Committee
- Mike Sakata, president and CEO of the Maryland Transportation Builders & Materials Association
- Nick Henninger-Ayoub, director of policy and research for the Greater Baltimore Committee
- Oluseyi Olugbenle, deputy director of the Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation
- Patricia Stevens, community coordinator for the Worcester County Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition and a 24-year veteran of county government in Fairfax County Virginia
- Paul J. Wiedefeld, Maryland Department of Transportation secretary
- Ragina Ali, public and government affairs manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic
- Rebecca L. Flora, Maryland Department of Planning secretary
- Sen. Stephen S. Hershey Jr. (R-Upper Shore), Senate minority leader, Senate Finance Committee, Joint Spending Affordability Committee
- Thomas Huesman, managing director of The Fraley Group Corporation
- Todd R. Mohn, Queen Anne’s County administrator
O’Brien’s new gig
A familiar face in state government communications is heading back to the nonprofit sector.
Susan O’Brien joins the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids as its new director of state communications.
Most recently, O’Brien served as director of communications for former Comptroller Peter Franchot (D). She served as communications officer for the city of Annapolis, as well as holding positions within the state’s transportation and natural resources departments for former Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D).
O’Brien also served as communications coordinator for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
She starts her new position on Aug. 16.
Location set for Senate forum
Maryland voters interested in hearing the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate can travel to Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg on Sept. 30.
The Latino Democrats of Prince George’s County will host a forum at the school that afternoon at 1 p.m.
All Democrats who have filed as candidates are invited to participate, including the top three candidates – Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando and Rep. David Trone.
Although others have expressed interest in running for the seat since Sen. Ben Cardin (D) announced May 1 that he will not seek reelection, the top three candidates are the only ones who filed campaign finance reports last month .
Trone, co-founder of the national liquor store chain Total Wine & More, spent more than $4.7 million on his Senate campaign between April 1 and June 30. But the congressman still has about $5.2 million in his campaign account.
During the same period, Alsobrooks reported $1.7 million in contributions with about $1.3 million cash on hand.
Jawando’s campaign brought in about $526,000 and finished June with slightly more than $314,000.
He said in a statement that his campaign would receive a boost after fellow Montgomery County resident and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8th) chose to seek reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives rather than run for the Senate.
Both Jawando and Alsobrooks seek to make history by becoming the state’s first Black U.S. senator. If elected, Alsobrooks would be the nation’s third Black woman elected to that chamber.
The Latino organization hasn’t endorsed a candidate in the race. Cardin also hasn’t come out in support of a candidate.