O’Malley set to meet with legislative leaders on transportation Thursday afternoon

Traffic on the I-495 Beltway in Montgomery County. (Photo by Linda Davidson/The Washington Post).

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Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon with the two presiding officers of the General Assembly as part of a continuing effort to find a consensus on a transportation funding package, he said.

“Our neighbors in Virginia were able to find common ground ... and I think people in Maryland expect us to be able to do the same,” O’Malley told reporters, referring to legislation passed in the commonwealth last weekend.

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O’Malley (D), Senate President Thomas V. Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) have all said they would like to act this year on legislation that would infuse hundreds of millions of additional dollars into highway construction and mass transit.

Last weekend, Busch said he considered it “highly probable” that something gets accomplished.

But with less than half of the 90-day session remaining, the three leaders have not agreed on a common approach. Only Miller has introduced a bill, and Busch has expressed reservations about parts of it.

The Miller bill would would impose a 3 percent sales tax on gasoline. It would also give taxing power to regional authorities to raise money for major rail lines and allow counties to tack up to 5 cents onto the state’s 23.5-cent-per-gallon gas tax for local projects.

Anything that is crafted is not likely to be popular with the public. Barely a quarter of Marylanders statewide support any of the ideas put forward so far that involve taxes, according to a Washington Post poll published this week.

The meeting Thursday afternoon will be the first in several weeks on transportation involving all three leaders.

Maryland has no money budgeted for highway construction after 2017. And no funding has been identified to pay the state’s share of long-planned rail projects.

Without new funding this legislative session, the state Department of Transportation plans to halt design work on the Purple Line, which would connect Bethesda and New Carrollton, as well as on a dedicated express bus route in the Interstate 270 corridor.

 
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