ANNAPOLIS, Md.—For several years, Gov. Martin O’Malley has been talking about raising transportation funds for Maryland with a possible sales tax increase on gasoline.
Last year, he floated an idea of a 6 percent sales tax increase on gas, but did not find a lot of backers.
In his State of the State address Wednesday, O’Malley made another reference to the state’s transportation needs.
“There is no reason why we should be content with having the worst traffic congestion in the country. Building a 21st-century transportation network won’t happen by itself,” O’Malley said.
One idea being floated by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert/Prince George’s, in this session of the Maryland General Assembly is giving county governments the option to raise 5 cents per gallon on gas to fund local transportation projects. According to the Associated Press, he also has suggested a separate 3 percent sales tax increase on gasoline statewide that could bring in $300 million.
The gas tax rate last was increased in 1992, when it went from 18.5 cents to 23.5 cents per gallon.
But such ideas remain unpalatable to many legislators in the Washington County delegation because they feel that any increase in the gas tax unfairly punishes rural areas of the state because residents in those areas are much more dependent on their cars.
Sen. Ronald N. Young, D-Frederick/Washington, has filed a bill that would enable counties or municipalities to charge 2 cents per gallon on gas sales to fund local and transit projects.
Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany/Washington, has reintroduced two bills from the 2012 regular session.
One proposes to add a 2.1 percent tax to the wholesale price of gas in areas served by mass transit such as Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Another would add half a percent to sales tax in those counties to pay for mass transit systems.
“My idea is a regional tax controlled by the state,” Edwards said.
The money collected from these taxes would go to a separate mass transportation account in the state’s Transportation Trust Fund. The bills also seek to cap the amount that mass transit gets from the trust fund at 2012 levels.
“I think it is the fairest approach instead of putting all the burden on vehicle owners,” Edwards said.
Part of the purpose of his bills was to bring more ideas to the table, he said.
The Transportation Trust Fund was created in 1971 to support the Maryland Department of Transportation, and revenue sources include gas taxes, vehicle excise taxes and motor vehicle taxes.
But many in the Washington County delegation remain opposed to any gas tax increase.
“We don’t support this. I don’t support this. The people that live in the rural areas don’t support it ... we drive further to go to work,” said Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington.
He said that Miller’s plan might pass in the Senate, but would be a tough sell in the House of Delegates.
Serafini said he was open to looking at the idea of a regional tax, but did not support a statewide 3 percent increase in the gas tax.