Governor, Presiding Officers Start to Work Votes for Transportation Bill

The Governor’s transportation plan, which has support from both presiding officers, was heard in the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday, March 15. As previously reported on Conduit Street, the plan includes an immediate drop of 5 cents per gallon in the motor fuel tax, offset by a 2% sales tax applied at the wholesale level. The wholesale level tax would increase to 4% in 2014, and another 2% if the federal government fails to enact legislation applying sales taxes to internet sales by June 2015. The base motor fuel tax rate would also be indexed to cost of living increases in future years. What’s not included in the bill is how the money would be allocated.

Now that the bill has been introduced, the Governor and House and Senate leadership are taking action to acquire the votes to get it passed.  As reported by the Baltimore Sun (limited free views available):

The governor, the speaker and the Senate president will likely try to assemble just enough votes to pass the bill while letting their more conservative Democratic members off the hook.

In the House, the base of a coalition in favor of the gas tax plan probably would have to come from the all-Democratic delegations from Baltimore and from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. They are the jurisdictions with the greatest transit needs and traffic congestion, and where lawmakers would face the least political risk from casting a “yes” vote.

Those jurisdictions would provide 65 of the needed 71 votes if the speaker’s vaunted whip system could keep all of those members in line. The leaders will look for the rest of the votes in such places as eastern Howard County, western Baltimore County, the city of Frederick and increasingly Democratic Charles County, where rapid growth has led to traffic congestion.

The math is similar in the Senate, except that Miller might need to muster 29 votes to break a filibuster — something he always seems able to do.

The plan will generate $600 million in new transportation revenues.