O’Malley meets with Senate Democrats on Md. transportation package
By John Wagner,
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley met with Senate Democrats on Tuesday as part of a continuing effort to craft a bill to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue for transportation projects, an aide said.
“The hope would be to get a consensus bill the governor and presiding officers would stand behind,” said O’Malley (D) spokeswoman Raquel Guillory, offering no particulars as to what the legislation would include.
The closed-door meeting — in which O’Malley came armed with a PowerPoint presentation, participants said — included Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who has introduced his own transportation funding legislation.
Miller’s bill would impose a new 3 percent sales tax on gasoline, create regional authorities to raise money for major rail lines and authorize counties to add another 5 cents to the state’s 23.5-cent-per-gallon gas tax to fund local projects.
Miller told reporters that O’Malley is not keen on the concept of regional authorities and is pushing a proposal he has floated several times before: raising the state’s general sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent and earmarking the additional revenue for transportation.
Miller said he considers that idea “probably a non-starter.”
Still, several weeks into the 90-day legislative session, it was a good exchange, Miller said. “It’s late in the session for moving forward, but it’s definitely progress,” he said.
Guillory said O’Malley is “still talking options” with legislative leaders.
O’Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) have no meetings scheduled, aides said, but Guillory added that O’Malley frequently picks up the phone or drops in on the presiding officers.
The need for additional transportation revenue is widely acknowledged among lawmakers, though there has been limited political will to raise taxes. The state has no money budgeted for new highway projects after 2017. And transportation officials recently said that design work on a light-rail Purple Line and a dedicated express bus route in the Interstate 270 corridor would stop after June 30 if the legislature does not approve a state transportation tax increase.
In last month’s State of the State speech, O’Malley said that state must find a way to get more transportation funding, “or every citizen in our state will continue to waste more time and more money sitting in traffic.”