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Posted at 7:12 PM ET, 03/ 1/2011

Bill for 10-cent Md. gas tax hike gains support

By Aaron C. Davis

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.

By Aaron C. Davis  | March 1, 2011; 7:12 PM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis  
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Comments

So Mr. Leggett is in favor of a commuter gasoline tax on those going to work at a time when gasoline prices are headed to $4. No wonder Montgomery County is a flyover for job-producing companies looking for a place to locate.

Posted by: robinficker | March 2, 2011 7:17 AM | Report abuse

See I told you so. Raise a tax that’s the only answer that the Democrats have. I guess they will blame Bob Ehrlich for this. 23 percent increase in the gas tax, 50 percent increase to register your car. You sheep are getting what you voted for unfortunately we all must pay for you what you sheep have done to us. At least we all know now who has their hand in our collective pockets

Posted by: cheverly1 | March 2, 2011 7:47 AM | Report abuse

How about we just stop funding the "New American's" and stop screwing the LEGAL citizen's of the state.... O'MoreMoney needs to stop trying to get votes from those that can't legally vote....

Posted by: FrustratedMDer | March 2, 2011 9:01 AM | Report abuse

The silence is defining where the people who usually defend these Democrat thieves are. Come you voted for them defend their policies. You can't can you. Your shame is obvious.

Posted by: cheverly1 | March 2, 2011 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Unless they put a legal padlock on the highway trust fund, so it can only be used for transportation projects, this will be like giving more wine to an alcoholic. The answer is to STOP spending money you don't have. It wouldn't hurt us so bad if there were practical mass transit alternatives to driving in this gregion, but there aren't.

Posted by: VikingRider | March 2, 2011 9:58 AM | Report abuse

O'Malley needs to cut funding to the University of Maryland to help balance the budget. It keeps cranking out morons that think taxes are great and that illegal aliens deserve healthcare and benefits. I guess he would be out of a job if Maryland ran out of stupid people though.

Posted by: pyoung66 | March 2, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

It's long since time that we raised gas taxes, by a lot more than a dime too. Oil is wrecking our country, and we need to move away from it. Higher gas prices are the only thing that change behavior. We're sending $300bn a year to Saudi Arabia and other tyrannies, spending $660bn a year on the military, mostly to defend oil shipping lanes and oil-producing countries, threatening our coastlines and habitats with global warming, not to mention the damage to our personal finances, pollution, stress, etc. etc. It's just foolishness that we don't have stiff oil taxes that will shift the economy. The revenues can go to social security tax rebates (so they reach the lower-income people who will be more affected by the taxes) and to improved mass transit. We're in trouble, people, and it's long since time we took action. OilTaxCampaign.org.

Posted by: Flux | March 2, 2011 11:31 PM | Report abuse

There should be a "lock" on the transportation fund. Our infrastructure system is somewhere in the neighborhood of 40% deficient. I suppose the “smaller government folks” are in favor of letting our bridges fall down before we do something.

Posted by: MarkPatro | March 3, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

The gas tax was last raised in 1992 to the current $0.235/gallon. Factor in inflation to get the same buying power in 2009 the equivalent tax would be $0.35/gallon (check for yourself at http://www.westegg.com/inflation/) The proposed increase will not even cover inflation from 1992 or the increased fuel efficiency of the vehicle fleet. Although the timing is unfortunate with the current rise in gas prices it is a necessary amount to attempt to return the infrastructure to a respectable level.

Ask yourself: Would you accept the same salary now that you were earning in 1992? Unless you are unemployed currently I would expect the answer is an emphatic "NO!" Why would you expect to fund something at the same amount for 19 years with no adjustements?

Posted by: aaronc | March 8, 2011 10:16 PM | Report abuse

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