Gas tax increase should be a non-starter

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The Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding has recently announced its recommendations to significantly increase the gas tax and to double vehicle registration and inspection fees, taking over $900 million per year out of Marylanders' pockets. While some jobs may well be created, there is no doubt that some will also be lost due to the significant impact on the cost of moving goods and food, traveling to work and transporting children to school and activities. In this current economy with extremely high gas prices already, families don't have unlimited funds, so increasing their costs in one area will require cuts in another area of family spending. The net result will create more of a financial burden for families and small businesses in the midst of economic hard times.

Protecting the Transportation Trust Fund with a constitutional amendment is absolutely essential to prevent our elected representatives from siphoning off the motor fuel taxes paid by motorists. Moreover, the county and city governments have suffered because more than $1.5 billion of transportation revenues necessary for local transportation needs has been diverted for other purposes not even related to highways and bridges. An additional $50 million is still owed! But the biggest problem facing the Transportation Trust Fund is that billions of dollars of motorist-paid funds are being spent on two major mass transit systems. About 50 percent of the funds that reach the TTF are spent to cover operating costs of these mass transit systems. The fares paid by transit riders cover only a fraction of the operating costs. Yet mass transit systems handle less than 10 percent of local travel. Highways and bridges are choked with the remaining 90 percent of the traffic.

Some on the Blue Ribbon Commission naively suggested that the new tax increases may not be passed on to the consumer by the gas station dealers and their suppliers. Well I can tell you that after having worked in the oil industry for over 40 years, the tax increase will be passed directly to consumers. These dealers are small businesses with very small operating margins and they cannot afford to absorb an increase in the excise tax. The same applies to small delivery and trucking businesses and families in regard to the proposed increased cost of inspections and registration fees.

Now is not the time to take more money out of Marylanders' pockets. Our state government needs to find other alternatives, including living within its means!

Pete Horrigan, Arnold

The writer is president of the Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors Association.

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