April 4, 2016
Partners for Open Space Thanks Governor & General Assembly
HB 462, Program Open Space – Transfer Tax Repayment – Use of Funds, Signed Into Law Today
Annapolis, MD – Today, Partners for Open Space thanked Maryland Governor Larry Hogan for signing into law HB 462, “Program Open Space – Transfer Tax Repayment – Use of Funds,” which was passed unanimously by both the House (on March 16, 2016) and the Senate (on April 1, 2016). A copy of the bill signed today is available here.
“On behalf of Partners for Open Space, I thank Governor Hogan for delivering on his promise to restore funding to Program Open Space,” Josh Hastings, chair, Partners for Open Space, said. “Our coalition of more than 150 supporting members is also very grateful to the General Assembly and in particular Senators Thomas “Mac” Middleton, and Nancy King; and Delegates Tawanna Gaines, Maggie McIntosh, and Barbara Frush, for their hard work and commitment to regaining at least some of the previous diversions from Program Open Space and ensuring the future creation of parks and playgrounds and the protection of farms, forests and historic places.”
With his signature, the Governor and the legislative leadership have delivered on their promise to restore funding to Program Open Space (POS), provided a $6 million increase in POS funding for Baltimore City, and created a repayment plan to restore funds diverted from POS during previous administrations. Additionally, the program would return to full cash funding in FY 19, and beginning in FY 19 if there are new cuts, the governor must include a plan to restore 1/3 of the cut over each of 3 successive years.
Partners for Open Space advocated for the bill this legislative session on the heels of a recent poll of Marylanders conducted by Partners for Open Space that showed 87% support for Program Open Space and 73% support for the Act. Support for the Program and the proposed Act was strong in all regions of Maryland and across party lines. Polling was conducted jointly by both republican and democratic polling firms. The polling memo is available here.
While the original Program Open Space Act of 1969 dedicated these funds to land preservation, for many years administrations and legislators have raided and diverted them for other purposes. POS funds land conservation, historic resource protection and park development across the state, for both state agencies as well as county governments and the City of Baltimore. Projects funded protect water quality and wildlife habitat, create new recreation opportunities, and protect farmland and historic sites. When asked about priorities for the funds, those surveyed overwhelmingly prioritized water quality efforts for drinking water, rivers, streams and Chesapeake Bay. Other key priorities include protection of forests and wildlife habitat, preserving farmland, maintaining are repairing state parks, and increasing access to the water, including beaches and the Chesapeake Bay.
Partners for Open Space is a statewide coalition of over 100 groups seeking to secure, save and protect Maryland’s land conservation programs.
Established in 1969, Program Open Space dedicates a portion of the state’s real estate transfer tax to support the preservation of parks, playgrounds, farms, forests and historic sites.