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Truck Drivers Protest Proposed Gas Tax Increase

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — If you think gas prices are bad now, wait to see what happens if lawmakers sign off on a gas tax increase.  There’s already stiff opposition to the plan.

Mike Hellgren breaks down the views from both sides.

The money raised would cover about a third of the massive $1.6 billion budget gap, but opponents say it’s just sticking it to the little guy who can least afford it.

Truckers swarmed Annapolis with a message for politicians, outraged at several proposals to raise the gas tax just as unrest in the Middle East has caused prices to skyrocket.

“We’ve had enough!  We just can’t afford it,” said one trucker.

Marylanders pay 23.5 cents a gallon.  One bill would up the tax 12 more cents; the money would go to fix roads.

“Well, we’re hoping that the bill will raise somewhere around $500 million a year.  The gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1992,” said Delegate Bill Frick.

It has high-profile support from Baltimore’s mayor and several county executives, who have seen transportation budgets slashed.

“The fact is, roads throughout the state of Maryland are deteriorating and are going to deteriorate a lot more if we don’t act,” said Howard County State Executive Ken Ulman.

“We want to say to our elected officials, stop robbing the transportation trust fund to balance your budget,” said trucking company manager Mel Fair.

“We can no longer afford to do this without stretching or breaking,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Maryland’s gas tax is the same as D.C.’s, more than Virginia’s but less than neighboring West Virginia and Pennsylvania.  The proposed increase would make our state’s tax the highest in the region, which is why it’s generating so much outrage.

“We’re tired of paying for everything else,” said a trucker.

“I am definitely sympathetic to the cost imposed, not just to truckers but on all of us that pay at the pump,” said Frick.

The tax could go into effect as early as July.  Backers want it dedicated solely to transportation.

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