A panel created by the Maryland General Assembly and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) on Tuesday recommended increasing the state’s gas tax by 15 cents per gallon and boosting fees on every car owner, bus rider and train passenger to keep solvent the state’s underfunded trust fund for road maintenance and transit projects.
O’Malley last week said he would consider backing such a gas tax hike as part of a package to spur job growth in the state. Several prominent Democrats last year tried to pass a gas-tax increase and have said they would reintroduce the measure when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.
The 15-cent hike would be phased in over three years under the plan finalized Tuesday by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding. It would also come with strings attached: all of the money would be used exclusively for transportation projects, said commission chairman Gus Bauman.
According to one state analysis distributed Tuesday, the tax would amount to nearly $200 annually for an average household.
The commission also recommended a 50-percent increase in the car registration fee; a hike in the car titling tax, and lifting a cap on how much the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration can charge for various services.
Transit passengers also would not be exempt. The commission proposed increasing MTA fares for bus and rail passengers.
Maryland faces an estimated $40 billion backlog in transportation projects. Combined, the commission’s recommendations would raise about $870 million annually.
The higher fees would not begin to address how the state would pay for its share of the near $2 billion proposed purple line connecting suburban Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, or the proposed red line expansion to the transit system in Baltimore.