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Maryland approves massive new gas tax

The Maryland State Senate approved a massive hike in fuel taxes on Good Friday afternoon.  In a 27-20 vote the senators approved Governor O’Malley’s plan to add billions in new transportation revenue.  The measure cuts the current per gallon gas tax, but indexes it to inflation and applies a wholesale tax to be phased in over three years.  Depending on federal action on an Internet sales tax, Maryland motorists could see as much as a 20 cents per gallon increase in the gas tax by 2016.

O’Malley and supporters of the measure argued that the new revenue was needed to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund.  However, the legislature, O’Malley and previous governors have raided over $1 billion from the fund to pay for other spending.  In fact, O’Malley and the overwhelming majority of the current legislature voted to raid $868 million in Transportation Trust Fund money.  That money has never been repaid.

The House must approve a constitutional amendment added by the Senate, which creates a lock box on transportation funds. The amendment requires a three-fifths majority vote in each house in order to divert money out of the Transportation Trust Fund.  The House version of the bill only required a three-fifths majority of a committee vote to divert funds.

Proponents say the funds will go to build new roads to relieve congestion, maintain current roads, and bridges, and fund new transit projects like the Purple Line outside Washington, DC and the Red Line in Baltimore.

If past is prologue, then Maryland motorists can expect continued congestion less spending on infrastructure maintenance.

The majority of gas tax revenue (54 percent) goes to mass transit, which accounts for less than five percent of all travel in the state.

Mark Newgent

Mark Newgent is a contributing editor to Red Maryland, the premiere blog of conservative politics in the Free State, voted one of the best state political blogs by the Washington Post two years in a row. His writing has appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Washington Examiner, National Review Online, and more. Twitter: @MarkNewgent

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Categories: Budget and Finance, Must Read, Transportation
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