THE GOVERNORS of Maryland and Virginia are raking in money at a fast clip these days -- gathering up the bounty of flush times. And like Congress, the legislatures in Annapolis and Richmond are torn between politically alluring tax-cut plans and spending proposals to lift more individuals out of poverty.
Lurking in the wings are those "rainy days" that everyone expects when the economic boom is lowered -- and for which lawmakers salt away modest bundles of surplus cash. But however monsoonal those days turn out, the most staggering expenses of tomorrow -- for transportation in the two states -- are not provided for.
Leaving aside debates on the relative merits of big highway projects and mass transit improvements, both states need billions of dollars just to address the most conservative estimates of population and job growth over the next 20 years. The traditional sources of transportation money -- gasoline taxes and various motor vehicle fees -- can and should be tapped more. But other solutions will be necessary -- which might mean higher sales taxes and, where possible, shifts of general fund revenues for transportation projects and new provisions for bonds.
Trouble is, taxpayers hearing about all the surplus money in hand today don't want to hear about any additional taxing for tomorrow. Besides, while people are demanding better transportation facilities and services in general, their support often vanishes when the rubber hits the road too close to home.
Neither Gov. Gilmore nor Gov. Glendening will be running to succeed himself, which leaves both men politically free to ignore, delay or shortchange new proposals for financing transportation improvements. But when either governor thinks about his legacy, he would do well to leave the state with a sound financial plan to keep goods, services and people moving efficiently.