Figures showing Maryland can run the annual vehicle emissions testing program at less cost than a private firm should prompt the General Assembly to consider turning the tests over to the state, a lawmaker said yesterday.

Del. John R. Leopold (R-Anne Arundel) asked the Department of Fiscal Services to calculate the savings if the state -- instead of the California firm that currently runs the testing stations -- administers the program.

Figures show that if the tests were given by the state annually, the savings would allow Maryland to reduce the $9 fee by $2.50 and would generate an additional $4.7 million for the state transportation fund, Leopold said.

The testing program, initiated to reduce pollutants from gas-powered vehicles, requires motorists in Baltimore and seven counties, including Montgomery and Prince George's, to check the emissions equipment on their cars every year. Systems Control Inc. of California runs 10 testing centers and handles about 1.7 million cars annually.

Bruce Diehl, who oversees the emissions testing program for the state Department of Transportation, said the Fiscal Services figures are "not too far off" figures generated by his office.

State-run testing centers "are not being ruled out," said Diehl. "The program would work either way."

A task force appointed to review the state's emissions program recommends that Maryland require the tests every two years instead of annually, which would probably reduce the amount of money Maryland would save if the state conducted the tests, Leopold said.