Chesapeake Conservancy Thanks Governor and General Assembly for Restoring Funds to Program Open Space

HB 462, Program Open Space – Transfer Tax Repayment – Use of Funds, Signed Into Law Today

Annapolis, MD – Today, the Chesapeake Conservancy 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.

“The Chesapeake Conservancy is very grateful that Governor Hogan has showed his commitment to Program Open Space by keeping his promise to restore funding to the program. The Governor and the General Assembly have now restored $150 million in short term funding and $270 million in long term funding that was diverted by previous administrations,” Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn said. “This is Maryland’s leading conservation tool and how the state goes about creating new parks and playgrounds for children, and more access to nature for everyone, while conserving land and providing wildlife habitat. This is a big deal, and we’re very pleased.”

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.

Chesapeake Conservancy is a member of Partners for Open Space and advocated with the coalition for the bill this legislative session on the heels of a recent poll of Marylanders 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 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.