Reporting Derek Valcourt
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)– Maryland lawmakers will soon be gearing up for another legislative session, and the state’s governor says those lawmakers will need courage to consider possible tax increases.
Derek Valcourt was there as the governor spoke to reporters at the State House Thursday.
With 2011 all but in the rear-view mirror, Governor Martin O’Malley is looking ahead to 2012 and the challenges facing Annapolis.
First and foremost, balancing the state’s budget, which the governor says until now has relied almost exclusively on cuts– $6.8 billion in cuts so far.
“But you get what you pay for,” O’Malley said. “And there’s no way to build a $100 million bridge for $10 million.”
And that’s why the governor says the legislature needs to take up a proposed hike in the gasoline tax. Maryland drivers already pay 23.5 cents per gallon in gas taxes– a rate set back in 1992.
But one state committee has suggested raising that tax by 15 cents per gallon, but many in Annapolis believe any actual increase would be smaller in the range of 5 to 10 cents.
“Somehow we have to find a way to make the kind of modern investments that a modern economy requires to create jobs,” said O’Malley.
Another tough battle expected next year– the fight over same-sex marriage. Narrowly defeated last year, the governor has now thrown his full support to gay and lesbian couples.
“I am hopeful and optimistic that the men and women of the Maryland General Assembly will pass a bill as other states have that protects freedom of religion and protects people equally under the law.”
If the measure does pass, opponents have already vowed to get a voter referendum on the ballot to stop it.
The governor counts a reduction in violent crime, including the state’s homicide rate, among the successes of 2011. As of Thursday morning in Baltimore City, the number of murders was down to 195.
O’Malley says 2011 has brought 26,700 new jobs to Maryland, with November bringing the largest single month drop in unemployment since 1984.