Road funds’ loss discussed by lawmakers

CAMBRIDGE — “Like every other rural county, we’re hurting,” Dorchester County Council Member Tom Bradshaw (District 5) said during the council’s meeting Nov. 7 with state legislators Sen. Addie Eckardt (R-37), Delegate Chris Adams (R-37B) and Delegate Johnny Mautz (R-37B).

Councilman Bradshaw was opening a discussion on the topic of the restoration of Highway User Funding. The state lawmakers attended the meeting to help prepare for the 2018 legislative session in Annapolis.

“We’re looking at a significant shortfall in the next few years,” Sen. Eckardt said.

For more than 40 years, local jurisdictions received 30 percent of the proceeds from the gas tax and vehicle registration fees, together called “highway user revenue.” In 2010, the proportion was cut by more than 90 percent.

Information provided by the county noted that local budget impacts include the loss of more than $4 million per year in highway user revenue, which is “not sustainable for future budget years” in Dorchester, which has 633 miles of road.

Conversation moved from funds to food.

Council Member Bradshaw noted that recently he spotted two field-dressed deer that had been left by the side of road, going to waste. He said as a young hunter, he had been taught by his father not to shoot anything he couldn’t eat or give to someone else.

“What can we do to get stiffer penalties for people who do that,” he asked the state lawmakers. “It’s wrong, it’s sinful.”

While no answer was immediately forthcoming regarding penalties, Delegate Mautz noted that the program Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry had its funding cut this year to $25,000.

Next year he said, there will be no support from the state, because the U.S. Dept. of the Interior has determined that harvesting deer in this way is not conservation. Delegate Mautz said he will file a bill during the legislation session that will provide tax credits to those participating in the program, as a way to encourage its continuation.

“The chances of it passing are 50-50,” he said.

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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