“This needs to be an initiative by the governor,” Miller said. “It doesn’t poll well, but that’s what leadership is all about.”
Under Miller’s proposal, the state would impose a new 3 percent sales tax on gasoline that would be used for new roads and bridges. The statewide levy would come on top of the 23.5-cent-per-gallon tax that motorists already pay at the pump. It would generate more than $300 million a year in new revenue, analysts say.
In addition, the state would create one or more regional authorities with the power to raise property taxes to help pay for the Purple Line in the Washington region and the Red Line in Baltimore. Neither light-rail project is expected to move forward without major federal funding as well.
Miller said his ideas, which he plans to submit as legislation next week, are intended to spark conversation about an issue that has received limited attention — from Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and others — in the annual legislative session now in its third week.
Miller acknowledged that not everything he is suggesting is likely to win approval, including a possible long-term lease of the ICC to a private operator to generate cash for other Maryland transportation projects.
“What I hope is the governor is going to get involved sooner rather than later,” Miller said. “This is something that should have been worked on all summer. The votes should have been lined up.”
In an interview Tuesday night, O’Malley said he has had several conversations with Miller about how to move forward on an issue that has long been a priority for him.
“I have been working with [Miller] and meeting with him as his ideas evolve, and I look forward to the final product,” O’Malley said. “We have the worst congestion in the United States, and we need to do more to attack the problem.”
Last year, O’Malley offered a major transportation initiative that gained no traction in either the Senate or the House, despite heavy lobbying of both chambers, he said. “Many people choose to forget that,” the governor said.
O’Malley did not include a transportation proposal in a package of legislative priorities released last week, but he said Tuesday that he has not ruled out introducing a bill.
Legislative analysts say that after 2017, Maryland will be able to afford only maintenance on the state’s transportation infrastructure. There is no money earmarked for new highway construction or transit projects, including the Purple and Red lines.