Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer's administration is considering trying to finance an increasingly costly transportation budget with an increase in the state's gas tax, administration officials said yesterday.

In a story published yesterday in the Baltimore Sun, Schaefer is quoted as saying the increase may be necessary to pay for road construction, mass transit and bridge repairs.

Schaefer's deputy press secretary, Louise Hayman, said in an interview yesterday that the increase has been under discussion by state officials for more than a year and that Transportation Secretary Richard H. Trainor favors it.

Dennis Parkinson, deputy secretary of budget and fiscal planning, said yesterday that even some legislators are informally considering an increase of up to 10 cents a gallon to help ease the problems created by shrinking federal highway funds. A major concern is maintenance of primary and secondary roads, he said.

Three years ago, the state legislature approved an increase in the gas tax from 13 to 18.5 cents a gallon. The state ranks 10th among the 50 states in gasoline taxes charged, Parkinson said.

In the past, the state has received money from the Federal Highway Administration's trust fund to pay for construction, but that source of financing is practically depleted, leading state officials to believe grants will not be available in the future, he said.

"The feds will probably not be doing much to match our funds unless the government does something to replenish their funds," Parkinson said, adding that Congress is considering an initiative to raise the federal portion of the gas tax by as much as 25 cents a gallon.

According to Parkinson, Congress may pump money back into the trust fund to continue the road construction, or may choose to allocate the money to the general fund to help reduce the deficit.

Meanwhile, Maryland officials are worried about how they will finance a five-year consolidated transportation program.

Parkinson said projects have reduced the Department of Transportation's reserves to about $10 million -- down from about $70 million a few years ago.

The only major alternative to increasing the gas tax, he said, would be increasing fees for vehicle registration and titling, or a combination of a gas tax and a fee increase, he said.

"We did something like that three years ago," Parkinson said. "And we charge a 5 percent sales tax on new cars which goes to the transportation trust fund."

Many of the state's transportation officials were in Europe with Schaefer and could not be reached for comment.

Stephen Zentz, deputy secretary of the state transportation department, said his department is "putting together a list of needs for highway and transit" funding, and a committee is expected to be formed later this year to examine future funding needs.

The transportation division has been allotted $2.1 billion for the fiscal year that begins July 1, of which $1.2 billion is scheduled to be turned over to the State Highway Administration, mainly for road construction.

Parkinson said he was surprised by Schaefer's public comments.

"At some point it's inevitable that we will go to the state legislature for an increase," Parkinson said. "It's just a matter of if we go this {fiscal} year or the next one."