President Joan Fidler gave the following testimony January 30, 2015, to the county’s delegation to Annapolis in opposition to Bill MC 24-15, which would ultimately lead to the creation of an independent transportation authority. Because of the strong opposition expressed by many, the bill was withdrawn by the County Executive.
Testimony before Montgomery County Delegation
January 30, 2015
I am Joan Fidler, president of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League and I am here to testify against Bill MC 24-15. The Taxpayers League as a matter of principle supports the idea of mass transit options for Montgomery County and the Maryland suburbs. It could likely promote economic growth both here and for the state as a whole – and at great cost to us. However, this bill is not the way to do it.
This bill is stunning in its scope, foolish in its strategy and unconscionable in its treatment of the voters of Montgomery County.
The bill is stunning in its scope as it will create an unelected body that does not have to submit its budget to the Council, that can acquire property through eminent domain, and that can issue bonds. This will be a body whose opacity is breathtaking. It will be responsible to no one. It will be funded through a “special taxing district”, a “special” district that will cover all of Montgomery County. It will balkanize the tax base and will justify an enormous transfer of debt off the County’s financial books to this new entity. And guess who will rush in to fill this gap? The County, of course – thus raising our debt obligation even more. Yes, it is stunning in its scope.
Moreover, it denudes the authority of the Department of Transportation. Is the Department incapable of handling transit functions, the major component of its current portfolio? Is the County incapable of hiring a world class director with the smarts and the savvy to handle what supposedly only this new body is capable of? Is this a solution in search of a problem?
The bill is foolish in its strategy. Here’s why. It appears, if history is any indication, that our delegation to Annapolis has been unable to get for Montgomery County the State funding we need for our projects. Our delegation claims that the leaders in Annapolis believe we are wealthy and can survive without needed State funding. So what does this bill do? It plays right into that perception. It trumpets to Annapolis that we do not need State funding and that we can raise taxes and issue bonds to handle transit needs. So as the economic engine of the State, already providing a disproportionate share of State revenue, we will now pay even more taxes for the good of the entire State by upping our investment burden. I can just see the wry grins in Annapolis. Yes, it is foolish in its strategy.
The bill is unconscionable in its treatment of the voters of Montgomery County. It will allow an unelected body to create pre-conditions which can cause the County Council to raise property taxes above the charter limit. And this despite the recent referendum where the voters of Montgomery County explicitly put in place a strong countermeasure to prevent this from happening. Running roughshod over the will of the voters of the County takes gall beyond compare. It is worse than unconscionable. And this morning, the Washington Post reports that our County Executive, pleading reduced revenues, plans to raise our property taxes even more.
The Montgomery County Taxpayers League asks you to reject the bill in its current form. You are the keepers of the flame for the residents of Montgomery County. Please act accordingly.