Representatives of business and labor groups urged Maryland lawmakers Friday to fall in line behind Gov. Martin O'Malley plan to raise taxes on gasoline to fund transportation projects.
At a morning news conference in Lawyers Mall outside the State House, Greater Baltimore Committeee president Donald C. Fry said an increase in transportation revenue is necessary for Maryland's economic health and quality of life. Fry said additional funding is needed to continue work on such major projects as Baltimore's Red Line.
"Without adequate revenue, these projects will never come together," he said.
Fry was joined at the news conference by Jim Dinegar, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, who said the money is important to the port of Baltimore and to the expansion of the MARC commuter train system and Washington's Metro service.
Jim Russ, representing the Maryland Transportation Building and Materials Association, said the lack of money in the Transportation Trust Fund has hit the highway building industry hard. He said some companies have had to lay off half their work forces because of a drought of large projects.
The governor's bill -- the result of an agreement with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch -- seeks to raise as much as $600 million in increased taxes on gasoline. It would do so by phasing in a sales tax on gasoline and by tying the excise tax on gasoline to inflation. That tax would intitally be cut from 23.5 cents a gallon to 18.5 cents, but would rise in subsequent years.
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