Four years ago, as legislators were considering a 5.5 cent per gallon increase in the gasoline tax, administration officials predicted they would be returning in 1991 in search of additional tax dollars. The enormous cost of road-building, bridge repair and mass transit would gobble up the extra revenue by that time, they said. And sure enough, transportation leaders are back seeking another $1.5 billion in revenue enhancements.
This would translate into higher motor vehicle fees and a 6.5 cent rise in the gasoline tax, to 25 cents. A gubernatorial panel grappled with a number of ways to raise extra money -- including applying the state's 5 percent sales tax to gas -- and decided to let Gov. William Donald Schaefer determine the exact shape of the proposal. But no one on the panel denied that Maryland faces a crunch in its transportation program.
There just isn't enough money to undertake all the projects deemed worthy. The $1.5 billion in extra funds would only build one-seventh of the proposals on the Department of Transportation's drawing board. At the same time, the state's recession is hitting the Transportation Trust Fund hard: it has led to a $521 million gap between what DOT thought it could build last spring and cannot build now because of the precipitous plunge in motor vehicle tax receipts.