O'Malley Considers Gas Tax Increase

O'Malley might increase the gas tax.
O'Malley might increase the gas tax. (By Robert A. Reeder For The Washington Post)
By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said yesterday that he is weighing an increase in the state's gasoline tax and other options to help pay for billions of dollars in transportation projects that the state could not otherwise afford in coming years.

O'Malley (D) said that state transportation officials have advised him that an additional $400 million to $600 million a year will be needed to keep pace with the state's needs during the next two decades, including a proposed light-rail Metro line connecting Bethesda and New Carrollton and light rail or bus service along part of the Interstate 270 corridor.

O'Malley said he has made no firm decisions about revenue proposals but said possibilities include earmarking a larger share of the state's corporate income tax collection for transportation projects and diverting a portion of personal income tax collections.

"One thing that all of us know for sure is that the current level of investment in our transportation solutions is not enough to protect our quality of life," O'Malley said.

Although the governor has spoken about the need for additional revenue, yesterday's comments provided the first glimpse of the magnitude of what the administration is considering.

Maryland is spending about $1.8 billion this year on transportation projects, but available funding is projected to decline in coming years. The state pays for transportation needs out of a separate budget from its $15 billion general fund, which could have a projected $1.5 billion shortfall next year.

O'Malley said whatever he proposes to the General Assembly will be "something that's progressive . . . rather than relying on jacking up everybody's driver's license fee or registration fee, as we did in the past."

O'Malley made his comments to reporters after an appearance in Montgomery County during which he praised County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) for "courageously" advocating a gas tax increase months ago.

Leggett repeated his call for a tax increase during the event, at which awards were given to businesses and individuals that promote commuting options other than driving to work alone.

Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari recommended the $400 million to $600 million revenue increase to O'Malley as a proposed target based on an update of a 1999 commission report, a spokesman said yesterday.

A bill introduced by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) during this year's legislative session, which ended April 9, would have yielded about $400 million a year by raising the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon, from 23.5 cents to 35.5 cents, according to legislative analysts.

Miller did not press for passage of the legislation this year, saying his goal was to spark a longer-term discussion about the state's transportation needs.

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