Panel Formalizes Transportation Funding Proposal

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Proposed taxes and fees aimed at raising more than $800 million in new transportation revenue annually in Maryland headed toward the Legislature and Gov. Martin O’Malley on Tuesday, as a state commission formally approved a plan to increase the state’s gas tax by 15 cents over three years.

The recommendations by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding put the proposal on track for a revved-up debate in the General Assembly’s legislative session that begins in January. Lawmakers on the panel said the upcoming session was the time to take up the proposal.

“This is the year of transportation, and if we don’t hit a home run this year, I don’t know if we can count on next year to carry out the recommendation,” said Delegate Carolyn Howard, D-Prince George’s.

The tax, which would apply to diesel fuel as well as gas, is the biggest component of the package. The state’s 23.5-cent gas tax would increase by 5 cents a year for three years. It would raise about $491 million a year after fully implemented. After that, the tax would be indexed to the Construction Cost Index to keep up with inflation. Maryland hasn’t raised its gas tax since 1992.

The proposal also includes a 50 percent increase in vehicle registration fees to collect about $165 million a year. Another proposal would either increase the vehicle titling tax from 6 percent to 6.5 percent or eliminate trade-in allowances to raise about $70 million. There would also be fare increases and the elimination of free passes for buses. The vehicle emissions inspection fee would double from $14 to $28.

“Everything here is a user fee. It’s all tied to transportation,” said Gus Bauman, the panel’s chairman. “Whether one drives or is on public transit, everyone is going to share in this, but it’s all user fees tied to transportation users. And, of course, the motor fuel tax, importantly, captures people who are driving through and stopping for fuel in Maryland when they’re from out of state. ”

But critics of the plan, including Lon Anderson, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic who was on the panel, said the plan put too muchof the transportation funding burden on motorists.

“I would just say to you that this is an unbalanced list,” Anderson said.

The proposal also calls for a constitutional amendment that would forbid transferring money out of the state’s Transportation Trust Fund to plug budget holes elsewhere. Critics of O’Malley’s handling of the budget during the recession and its aftermath have pointed to funding transfers from the fund to address other shortfalls, at the expense of transportation.

“I don’t see how you sell this to the public unless you say, `We stopped the raiding,”‘ Anderson said. “Otherwise, there is no integrity.”

But Delegate Tawanna Gaines, a Prince George’s Democrat who also was on the commission, said she believe it’s unfair to say the funds were raided, because money has been paid back.

“You know, sometimes you borrow from your savings account with the hope to be able to put it back, and that’s what we’ve done to the Transportation Trust Fund, and I think we’re at a point now that we can no longer borrow,” Gaines said. “I think additional revenue is definitely needed, and I think with these recommendations for these increased fees we’ll be able to do that.”

Gaines also emphasized that the gas tax would be applied at the wholesale level, and that oil companies wouldn’t necessarily pass it on to consumers at the pump.

But Anderson was skeptical.

“Exxon didn’t get to be the biggest corporation in America by paying the expenses themselves,” Anderson said.

Lawmakers talked about a transportation revenue package in the last legislative session, but the proposal fizzled. The idea has picked up momentum in recent months. O’Malley, speaking last week at the start of a special session on congressional redistricting, said he was considering the panel’s request. He also mentioned the need for transportation funding during the summer conference of the Maryland Association of Counties in August.

“There’s been a lot of debate in these times of austerity and scarcity about less, less, less, cut, cut, cut,” the governor, a Democrat, said last week, “but it’s not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea that in order to create jobs, a modern economy requires modern investments.”

Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley has underscored the state’s transportation funding problem by pointing out it would cost about $12 billion just to fund the top priority project in each county and the city of Baltimore.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

  • k

    The FBI and DEA fabricate evidence, steal from suspects and use murder to close those bad cases.
    At the corner of Calaveras and N. Park Victoria in Milpitas California two corrupt DEA allmost caused the death of an elderly lady while they where harrassing a suspect.
    The elderly lady was crossing the street about 15 yards ahead of the suspect’s car that was going west bound on Calaveras after having just pulled out of the Shell station. One of the DEA in the bus stop near the Shell station tried to gain the attention of the suspect thereby almost causing the car to hit the elderly lady. The other DEA was at the Shell station.
    They have also recently, on several occasions, entered my home while I was not there so that they can get better access to my vehicle and loosen steering linkages, remove wheel weights, tamper with breaks, tamper with transmission linkages, etc… Every time I detect that they have entered my home, my dog looks like he is not feeling well. Why take my insolence out on a dog?
    They are also shooting BB guns at my car while driving. One instance they shot a BB gun at my car in a very busy intersection of highways 680&101 while I was traveling 55+ mph.
    They have been harrassing me for 20 years.
    The DEA is part of the problem and not solution. Apart from being the proxy force for the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) and the NSA, they have been a failure since Nixon’s inception. The DEA could benefit from a large buget cut and employee rift to remove the corrupt ones.

    • KottaMan

      What is this rant about? It is so far off the topic it isn’t even funny. Kindly get some help if you know what I mean……

    • Wheres common sense when you need it


  • Wheres common sense when you need it

    Anyway, I don’t ever see the amendment passing, or if it does, there will be a loop hole inwhich the government can still raid the money. It’s hard to write rules when those who abuse the system are the ones writing them. The money will be collected and missed used, and then they will have a new reason to raise the taxes again. This will never stop untill this country gets a second party to run against the the only one running now! Bottom of the barrel, here we come!

  • KottaMan

    At the rate Annapolis is sucking mega-bucks out of the wallets of the motoring public, I think the protesters in NYC and elsewhere will look like saints compared to what 21401 might look like with a lot of Marylanders on the warpath. Annapolis just doesn’t get it. To believe that the Highway Trust Fund has not been raided is believing in the Fairy Godmother. To believe that MORE money is needed over and above the recent outrage called ‘toll increases’ is just an absurdity.

  • Vote them all out

    Tolls, fees, taxes, rent, food, insurance, etc., etc. I have nothing left at the end of the week. I know you can’t get blood from a turnip, but they want the turnip. Stop the spending, cut entitlements (welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Earned income tax credits, close tax loopholes, etc.), repeal Obamacare, illegals, partisan politics, etc. Mainly, enforce the laws already on the books and force the 47% who pay no taxes to ante up. Of course, this applies to both State and Federal governments.

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