The Washington Post

Maryland Senate president nudges O’Malley on hiring a transportation secretary

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller addresses the Senate in April on the last day of the 2012 legislative session. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

If Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley wants a transportation funding bill to pass in the upcoming legislative session, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. has a piece of advice: hire a transportation secretary.

Beverly K. Swaim-Staley announced in April that she would be leaving the Cabinet post. Nearly eight months later, O’Malley (D) has yet to announce a replacement.

O’Malley is weighing whether to introduce a major funding bill in the session that starts Jan. 9. It is one of several pieces of legislation that liberal allies are urging him to sponsor.

During the last 90-day session, O’Malley unsuccessfully pushed legislation that would have applied the state’s sales tax to gasoline, raising about $600 million a year for road and mass transit projects.

Any bill that raises prices at the pump remains a challenge to pass, but the odds would improve significantly if there were a transportation secretary “joined at the hip with the governor,” Miller (D-Calvert) said.

“If the governor is on board and the secretary of transportation is on board... I think we could cobble the votes together,” Miller said, speaking about his chamber.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said last week that he wants to see what impact the “fiscal cliff” talks in Washington have on the state before committing to a transportation funding bill or any other legislation with major revenue implications.

According to O’Malley aides, Joseph C. Bryce, the governor’s former chief lobbyist, was among those considered for the transportation secretary post. Bryce, a former Miller aide, has since left the administration to become a lobbyist with Manis Canning & Associates.

O’Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory told the Baltimore Sun in a story that appeared over the weekend that the administration is continuing to interview candidates.

“We have to find the person who’s going to be the right fit,” Guillory said.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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