Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley addresses the House of Delegates on the opening day of the 2012 legislative session in Annapolis. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

“Doing nothing doesn’t seem to be a responsible option,” O’Malley said, acknowledging a tough sales job ahead. “There’s no ‘easy’ button. There’s no magic wand.”

O’Malley weeks ago floated the idea of raising the gas tax to pay for additional transportation projects, but the legislation was not among a package of bills he formally unveiled last week. Since then, several lawmakers have questioned the prospects for passage of a transportation bill, particularly in the House of Delegates.

A Washington Post poll published Sunday found that fewer than half of Marylanders support even a modest increase in the gas tax.

When asked how they feel about an increase of 10 cents per gallon or higher — in line with what lawmakers expect O’Malley to propose — opposition swells above 70 percent and across a range of income levels.

O’Malley is scheduled to deliver his annual State of the State speech on Wednesday. “Stay tuned,” he said, when asked if he would outline his plan at that time.

O’Malley acknowledged to reporters that he is pushing an agenda this year that collectively asks a lot of lawmakers, including several tough votes.

“Part of the responsibility leaders have is to make themselves vulnerable from time to time. . . in order to make the future better for the people of the state,” O’Malley said.