Bill for 10-cent Md. gas tax hike gains support
Schemes to raise Maryland's gas tax that just weeks ago seemed to have little-to-no chance of passing the General Assembly gained important allies on Tuesday, even as the price of gas rose significantly amid concerns of ongoing turmoil in the Middle East.
Leaders of Maryland's three most-populous and powerful jurisdictions -- Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake -- traveled to Annapolis to testify in favor of a bill to raise the state's gas tax by 10 cents per gallon. Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, who is also chair of the Maryland Association of Counties, threw his support behind the measure as well.
The bill (HB1001), sponsored by Del. Bill Frick (D-Montgomery) and co-sponsored by one-in-four state delegates, would add a dime to the price of gas in Maryland, and increase all vehicle registration fees by 50 percent beginning July 1.
Beginning in 2013, the measure would also index the state's gas tax to the annual percentage growth in construction costs -- up to a one-cent increase annually.
The bill would also put a measure on the Nov. 2012 ballot to let voters decide whether to amend the state's Constitution to prohibit lawmakers from raiding the state's Transportation Trust Fund to balance its budget.
The measure would bring in roughly $375 million to Maryland's nearly bankrupt transportation fund next year. Maryland has a backlog of nearly $40 billion in unfunded transportation projects.
Leggett, Baker, and others said they would support the bill if it would return county funding for road improvements to pre-2008 levels. State lawmakers have voted to strip counties of nearly all of their road maintenance money during the downturn.
"I'm asking you to take a difficult vote," Baker told the House Ways and Means Committee. "We're here with you ... we need this."
Baker said that for Prince George's to maintain pace with development around the District, the county needs funds that only the state can raise to fund road improvements.
Before the hearing, about 40 trucks marshaled by the Maryland Motor Truck Association and the Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors Association rumbled past the State House to protest the potential tax increase.
Mel Fair of the Beltway Cos. in Baltimore, said the proposed 10-cent increase to Maryland's 23.5-cent gas tax would hurt the state because truck drivers would avoid buying gas in Maryland.
Fair also said a proposed increase in the state's vehicle titling tax could drive trucking companies from Maryland.
Tuesday's events followed an announcement last week by a group of Democratic senators who proposed a package of $827 million in tax hikes to restore funding for roads, as well as education and health care that would be slashed under Gov. Martin O'Malley's budget plan.
The senators' plan would increase the gas tax by even more, to 35.5 cents a gallon. It would also reinstate the millionaire's tax on Maryland's top earners, close a loophole that allows companies doing business in Maryland to avoid paying taxes on earnings held out of state, and boost the state's cigarette tax to $3 a pack.
O'Malley, who kept to a campaign promise to not introduce a budget with new taxes, has said he would consider all options advanced by the legislature.
The Associated Press contributed to this post.
Aaron C. Davis
| March 1, 2011; 7:12 PM ET
Categories: Aaron C. Davis
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