The Washington Post

Md. Senate leader says ‘nothing’ will happen on transportation without O’Malley

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

The day after the formal introduction of his transportation plan, Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) conceded that it is unlikely to go anywhere without the support of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).

“Nothing is going to happen unless the governor leads on this issue,” Miller told a gaggle of reporters as the Tuesday morning floor session of the Senate wrapped up.

Miller bemoaned traffic congestion in the Washington region, commenting on the day when an annual Texas A&M Transportation Institute report ranked it the most congested metropolitan area in the United States.

He said he considers his plan “a menu” of choices for O’Malley. To raise more money for road and transit projects, it includes a 3 percent sales tax on gasoline and authorizes counties to tack on up to another 5 cents to the state’s 23.5-cent-per-gallon gas tax.

Miller would also create regional authorities to raise additional money for rail projects, and he wants study a long-term lease of the Intercounty Connector to generate revenue for other transportation priorities.

But when talking to reporters Tuesday, Miller didn’t dwell on any of those details. Instead, he said several times over that O’Malley — who has not introduced his own transportation bill this session — needs to make the issue more of a priority.

A sample of what the Senate president had to say:

— “The governor needs to lead on this issue. He’s the governor of the state, and he’s got to lead. This is a crisis.”

— “I’m sure if he decides he wants to work, and work hard, he can get this done.”

— “It’s up to the governor to decide on this issue.”

— “I’m not the governor of this state. I don’t want to be the governor of this state. I have a hard enough time being the president of the Senate.”

In last week’s State of the State speech, O’Malley said something had to be done about transportation funding “or every citizen in our state will continue to waste more time and more money sitting in traffic.”

O’Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said later Tuesday that the governor is continuing to have conversations with Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) about possible approaches.

“Nothing is ruled out,” Guillory said, when asked if O’Malley might still put forward his own bill. “The conversations are ongoing. They continue.”

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



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