My statement on the recently announced transportation cuts
Yesterday, the Maryland Department of Transportation announced drastic cuts to the transportation budget. These cuts will hurt Marylanders statewide and set back our economy and environmental health for years, possibly decades. Canceling 12 major highway projects, all MTA commuter bus routes, and the MARC Brunswick Line extension, as well as reducing state funds going to local jurisdictions for Locally Operated Transit Systems (LOTS), will impact the ability of Marylanders to get to work and cause job loss (including construction jobs lost due to the canceled construction projects.) Reductions in transit state of good repair funding and canceling the funding increases to local jurisdictions for road maintenance will reduce the quality of life for Maryland commuters and more importantly could cause safety issues at a time when vehicular crashes have increased so dramatically since only last year. Delaying the zero emission bus transition will also make it more difficult to meet our climate goals, goals which our state has prided itself on.
Evidence and experience from our own state and across the nation has taught us that austerity is not the way out of a fiscal crisis. “Belt tightening” may save money in the short-term, but is shortsighted, as in the long-term it dampens the economy and causes a long-term hole of disinvestment that gets increasingly difficult to climb out of. While it’s true that in Maryland we are constitutionally obligated to pass a balanced budget, there are other alternatives to balance that budget rather than cutting transportation infrastructure and services that all Marylanders rely on. Ensuring that wealthy individuals pay their fair share and closing loopholes that large corporations exploit to avoid taxes can raise additional statewide revenue that will serve all Marylanders. We also need to examine our priorities, which should be the everyday Marylander needing services to live, work, and support themselves and their families. In this difficult fiscal climate, can we really afford to give a sweetheart deal to a wealthy individual just because he happens to be the owner of a beloved sports franchise?
Access to reliable transportation is essential to all Marylanders, and investment in equitable transportation will benefit us all – and our state’s economy – when and where it counts. Drastic cuts to transportation that will harm working and middle class families are simply unacceptable.
As a transit advocate, Vice Chair of the Transit Caucus, and a member of the Environment and Transportation committee, I will always do everything I can to protect and expand equitable transit that will provide Marylanders with choices, economic opportunity, and a clean and healthy environment. I pledge to do my part to support transit in the upcoming 2024 session.
Delegate Sheila Ruth