Support Uncertain For Proposal to Raise Funds for Transportation

As reported by the Daily Record, Senator Robert Garagolia has introduced a bill that would increase the gas tax by 10 cents, indexing it for inflation, but providing for a yearly cap of 1 percent; increase vehicle registration fees by 50 percent; and provide for a constitutional amendment to protect the Transportation Trust Fund from transfers to the General Fund.  However, there seems to be varying levels of support among Senate and House leaders.

“There’s a backlog of road and transit needs in the state,” Garagiola said. “We’re falling behind, and we’re falling behind to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.”

But an increase to the gas tax, which has not been raised since 1992, when the General Assembly set it at 23.5 cents, will be a hard sell this year.

“People take roads for granted. They take bridges for granted. They take rapid transit for granted, but it has to be paid for,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert and Prince George’s.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said momentum for the gas tax will have to come from local and county governments that have seen more than 90 percent of their state transportation aid used to balance the state’s books in the last two years.

“I don’t think there’s any question you need some kind of funding source for transportation,” Busch said. “The question is, is there the political will to do it?”

Miller, who is one of Garagiola’s 13 co-sponsors on SB 714, said lawmakers are looking at a wide range of options to refill the state’s transportation coffers. Another bill in the Senate would add a 4-cent sales tax to the price of gas, and Miller said senators are also discussing raising the price of vanity license plates and other fees.

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