Purple Line funding in Hogan’s budget, for now

Gov. Larry Hogan kept state funding for the Purple Line in a budget proposal he released Thursday, but said that could change.

According to reports, Hogan said he was still deciding whether to move forward with the 16-mile light rail and the related Red Line light rail project in Baltimore.
“We were pleased to see that both Purple Line and Red Line funding remaining in Governor Hogan’s first Maryland budget,” said Coalition for Smarter Growth Executive Director Stewart Schwartz in a statement. “The Purple Line is a good deal for Maryland, good for jobs, good for the economy and good for commuters.”

It was the Coalition for Smarter Growth that, on the day after the election, tried to calm fears Hogan would halt the estimated $2.45 billion project.

During the campaign, the Republican from Anne Arundel County said he favored building highways over transit and that he was skeptical the Purple Line’s cost would be worth it. Later he said he would still consider both projects.

The state could need to provide between $350 million to $750 million for the Purple Line, which would run from New Carrollton to Bethesda and could start construction late this year. The federal government, local governments and a yet-to-be-picked private concessionaire would provide another $1.7 to $2.1 billion to get the project off the ground.

The news wasn’t as good for the geographic cost of education index, or GCEI, which provides more school funding for Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Baltimore, where the cost of living, transportation and other services are higher.

Hogan proposed cutting the GCEI by 50 percent, something Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said could mean a $17 million reduction in school funding to the county.

During a Thursday press conference on a new human trafficking bill, Leggett said he was watching Hogan’s first budget proposal closely and that so far it “certainly indicates a very strong hit to Montgomery County.”

Hogan is trying to bridge an estimated $750 million state budget shortfall. The proposal on Thursday didn’t include all the specifics, but did include a 2 percent cut to every state agency’s budget.

There would be a 1.3 percent increase in spending for higher education and a record high of $6.1 billion on Kindergarten-Grade 12 spending. Hogan’s proposal also includes $290 million for school construction.

Leggett said he was happy to see funding for the Purple Line and Red Line “at least thus far has not been changed.”

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