By Pat Warren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) ―Pumping in the dollars. Maryland lawmakers face a daunting deficit, and now some are hinting at an increase in the state gasoline tax.

Pat Warren has more on what that could mean for drivers and the state.

Governor Martin O’Malley’s 2011 budget has no tax increases, but that wouldn’t stop the general assembly of passing one of its own. 

You pay the price at the pump, including tax.

“I know the economy is bad so we probably need taxes, but I really don’t want to pay too much more for gas,” said Caroline Carlson, driver. “That would be bad.”

At a time when drivers are deciding how much gas they can afford to put in the car, legislative analysts are delivering the three little words no one wants to hear: demand exceeds resources.

In other words, you’re short $1.6 billion. That has Senator Mike Miller looking at bumping up the gas tax.

“It is never popular,” he said of increasing taxes.

Neither is standing still, but without money for road and highways improvements, traffic could be worse than it already is.

“In the Baltimore metropolitan region, it’s the second longest commute time outside of New York,” Miller said. “In the Washington metropolitan region, it’s the most congested outside of Los Angeles. It’s not so much an economic development issue as it is a quality of life issue, getting from place to place.”

A gas tax hike would put your dollars to work on those transportation problems, but driver Victor Popov has more pressing things to do with his money.

“I’m sure they have their reasons for it,” Popov said. “But you know we’re already being hit so hard.”

O’Malley’s budget due in July doesn’t include increased taxes, but the general assembly could pass a gas tax hike.

“I think the transportation funding issues will be very front and center as well as the entire budget,” O’Malley said.

Which could make for a long hard winter.
“If we have a snowstorm or a problem this year like we did last year, we’re all going to be in deep trouble,” Miller said.

That’s because the general assembly had to cut the transportation trust fund money to the municipalities in the counties. However, Miller doubts there will be enough votes in the general assembly to pass a gas tax hike without the leadership of the governor.

The state hasn’t increased the gasoline sales tax since 1992.


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