No Increase in Md. Gas Tax This Year
By Charles Babington
Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening confirmed yesterday that there will be no gasoline tax increase this year, but he and legislative leaders indicated they may seek such an increase next year.
Glendening (D) had said earlier that he would support a gas tax increase either this year or next. Many legislators objected to an increase this year, noting that the governor already has called for a cigarette tax increase and arguing that the public has not been sold on the need for higher motor fuels taxes.
Glendening and General Assembly leaders now appear poised to launch a year-long campaign to emphasize highway and transit needs, hoping to prepare the political groundwork for an increase in the gas tax in 2000.
"In the future we will simply not have the revenue to preserve, design and build the kind of transportation projects necessary to revital ize communities, stimulate economic development and move people efficiently from place to place," said a statement released yesterday by Glendening, House of Delegates Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's). "Without a revenue enhancement, major transportation projects throughout the state will be at risk -- projects of the magnitude of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge [and] various proposed mass transit additions."
Maryland's gasoline tax, last raised in 1992, is 23.5 cents a gallon, somewhat higher than those in Virginia and the District. The tax is a major revenue source for highways, mass transit systems, the Port of Baltimore and Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Yesterday's joint statement directed an advisory panel, whose members were appointed last year by the governor and General Assembly, to examine Maryland's long-term transportation needs and funding options.
"Additionally, this committee will conduct a series of public meetings throughout the state to hear from citizens about their transportation needs and the serious potential consequences that may result in our communities without the additional transportation revenues," the statement said.
Republicans and some conservative Democrats have complained that Glendening appears too eager to raise taxes during a robust economic period that is producing budget surpluses. Several legislators said it was politically infeasible to increase both gasoline and cigarette taxes in the same year, especially given the economic climate.
Glendening has opted to press for a higher tobacco tax this year, calling for a $1-per-pack increase -- 50 cents this year, and another 50 cents next year. Some legislators predict the Senate will insist on a somewhat smaller increase.
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