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Local Md. officials spar with Hogan over transportation law

This poster lists transportation projects for Montgomery County that wouldn't receive funding under a new transportation law, according to the Hogan administration. Montgomery County Council members defended the law a day after Gov. Larry Hogan called for its repeal. Virginia has a similar funding transparency law on the books. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)

BETHESDA, Md. – Members of the Montgomery County Council defended a new state transportation funding law a day after Gov. Larry Hogan called to repeal the measure, which he called “disastrous” for the state.

“This is not a bad bill,” said Council President Roger Berliner Thursday. “The notion of re-litigating an issue that (Hogan) lost overwhelmingly last time, it just seems to me to be not constructive.”

Hogan held a news conference Wednesday blasting the law that requires transportation projects to be scored to determine which projects would receive state funding. The rankings are based on numerous factors, such as whether a project enhances existing community assets and increases accessibility to jobs. Supporters of the law claim it was intended to provide transparency and consistency for how state transportation projects are selected. Virginia has a similar law on the books.

Hogan vowed to introduce emergency legislation for a “full and immediate repeal” of the law. He vetoed the bill earlier this year after it was passed by the General Assembly, but lawmakers were able to override the governor’s action.

“I will not stop fighting until this catastrophic bill is repealed,” Hogan said. “It will wreak havoc on the entire transportation system.”

The governor and state transportation leaders claim, under the law, that only seven of Maryland’s 73 highest-priority transportation projects would qualify for funding while the other 66 would need to be canceled. Of the seven projects singled out, five are in Montgomery County.

Supporters of the law say it helps funnel money into areas where it can have the greatest potential benefit.

“The biggest bang for the buck, frankly, is achieved in those communities with the largest populations and the largest need,” said Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Floreen. “I’m concerned about what the governor is saying.”

“This is about creating priorities where we’re moving the most amount of people,” Berliner added.

The legislative session begins on Jan. 11. The governor’s proposed legislation to repeal the law would need to be passed before Feb. 10 when the law’s regulations are set to take effect.

Berliner thinks it will be a futile effort on the governor’s part.

“To pick a fight on this, one that you’re going to lose, I don’t understand why you’d spend your political capital that way,” he said.

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