O'Malley to testify for gas tax proposal

March 09, 2012|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

In spite of the chilly reception his proposed increase in gasolines taxes has received from legislators, Gov. Martin O'Malley is planning to put his personal prestige on the line by testifying in favor of his transportation revenue bill Wednesday afternoon.

O'Malley is scheduled to make a pitch for his plan to apply the state's 6 percent sales tax to gasoline to a joint hearing of the House Environmental Matters and Ways & Means committees. The revenue measure, which is separate from the General Assembly's budget deliberations, would direct money to the state's depleted Transportation Trust Fund to help chip away at a backlog of road and transit projects.

The governor could face a skeptical audience because many legislators feel overwhelmed by the administration's call for an income tax increase to balance the state's budget, increased tobacco taxes and a  hike in the so-called "flush tax." Under Maryland's Constitution, the budget has to be balanced. The state's transportation shortcomings -- dire as they may be -- can be kicked into next year.

Even though the chances of action on the gas tax seem slim now, transportation advocates haven't given up hope. This morning, the Prince George's County House delegation heard a presentation by  a pro-business group and the highway construction industry on the Washington region's mounting congestion problems.

The presiding officers of the Senate and House have both been adamant that the budget must be resolved before the legislature turns its full attention to the gas tax issue. But if that happens in a timely manner, a renewed push for money for roads and transit can be anticipated.

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