ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gov. Martin O’Malley fired back Wednesday at Comptroller Peter Franchot for criticism of O’Malley’s gas tax proposal, describing him as “kind of our version of Mitt Romney.”

The comptroller responded with a barbed reference to speculation that O’Malley would run for president in 2016.

The two Democratic officeholders, who’ve frequently clashed, made the remarks after a Board of Public Works meeting when reporters asked questions about Franchot’s criticism of the gas tax proposal on Tuesday.

“He’s kind of our version of Mitt Romney,” said O’Malley, comparing Franchot to the former Massachusetts governor who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination. “I mean, he’s very happy taking opposite sides of every issue and always has throughout his career. I mean, he’s decried legalized gambling and also supported bills for legalized gambling. He’s supported bills to increase the gas tax and now he decries the gas tax.”

Joseph Shapiro, a spokesman for Franchot, said the financial conditions of the state and the nation are very different now than they were more than a dozen years ago when Franchot held different positions on those issues as a member of the House of Delegates representing Montgomery County.

“Peoples’ positions evolve with time,” Shapiro said.

Franchot, who is the state’s tax collector, held a briefing on Tuesday about how the state would implement the proposed sales tax on gasoline. At the briefing, Franchot said applying a 6 percent sales tax on gasoline would be a “shot in the gut” for the middle class and businesses.

When Franchot was asked by reporters for a response, he referred to speculation that the governor may have his sights on a future White House bid.

“I’m sorry if I’m getting in the way of his presidential efforts, but I’m doing my job as comptroller,” Franchot said.

The comptroller added: “It’s hard enough to focus on the bricks and mortar and dollars of the state budget — try to keep our fiscal house in order — without having a, you know, national campaign brought into Maryland.”

O’Malley was mentioned in a recent New York Times news analysis as a possible presidential candidate in 2016. The governor also has been criticized by some lawmakers, who say his chairmanship of the Democratic Governors Association has been a distraction from his duties in Annapolis.

The governor’s proposal to phase in the 6 percent sales tax on gasoline by 2 percentage points a year would raise about $613 million annually when fully implemented. O’Malley, who has been criticized for using dedicated transportation funds to plug general budget holes, is pushing the plan to address a serious backlog in transportation projects in the state.

“We’re all responsible for our own statements and my statement on this is this: that all of these are choices,” O’Malley said. “We don’t need to do this, but we’re going to incur a much bigger cost on every family throughout our state from increased congestion, increased traffic, loss of time, loss of productivity at work, loss of time with families. That’s the price of inaction.”

O’Malley also said lawmakers will have an opportunity to express their own opinions about where they stand on the issue as the legislation is considered.

Franchot said he believes discussion about a gas tax should wait until the state has fully recovered from the recession.

“The gas tax is a combination of two of the most regressive taxes known, sales tax and gas tax,” Franchot said. “It will weaken, not strengthen, the middle class. It will hurt small businesses.”

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (10)
  1. MJH says:

    I am voting for DONALD DUCK in 2016.

  2. cms827 says:

    I am moving to Canada if that moron runs for president.

  3. tomtom says:

    it makes me sick to say this but even Obama is better than that idiot.

  4. Jerry says:

    OweMalley should start listening to the people like Franchot is doing. Start using the monies from the lottery for what it’s supposed to be used for. If you do that no new taxes.
    I’m sorry I forgot that he helps CASA DE MARYLAND. So taxes are gonna have to be raised.

  5. m.A. says:

    Welcome to Md the sanctuary state. The bozo liberals in Montg & Howard county you can thank for this atmosphere. These pricks mostly live off the government or quassi government at salaries that are absurb & think everyone make their kind of Jack….They are deluded nincompoops that suc dead donkey dic.

  6. jeff says:

    O’Malley does not care about Marylanders he wants to show for his national aspirations that Md. is one of the few states operating in the black with a triple AAA rating. And the way to do that is raise every fee, toll & tax & break the back of the average Md. tax payer. Bottom line is he don’t care who he hurts to try & get to the top of national politics. People are out of work, hours cut, pay cuts etc…….But big government keeps on growing on the backs of the tax payer…..signed frustrated!!!

  7. Doug says:

    The governor says we need the increased the gas tax because if we don’t “we’re going to incur a much bigger cost on every family throughout our state from increased congestion, increased traffic, loss of time, loss of productivity at work, loss of time with families.” In theory, these issues affect us all. But I doubt that the governor is referring to the congestion on Route 4 in Prince Frederick at 4:30 pm on a weekday. I believe he is more than likely referring to the issues effecting people in the counties that carried him in 2010 (just 5 counties and Baltimore city). And granted, these are the most populous areas of the state. However, it appears he plans to make the whole state pay, so that those in the more urban area’s can (supposedly) have their transportation needs addressed. These are the same areas that have the benefit of mass transit and other alternatives to driving. For example, if you live in Montgomery County and don’t want to drive to DC, you can take the Metro (bus or rail), but if you live in Western Maryland, or on the Eastern Shore, you need to drive to get anywhere. To add a little salt to the wound, these less urban areas also have lower income per capita. These are the areas that will really FEEL the increase. Would the governor let each county keep the extra gas tax it collects for the improvement or construction of infrastructure in that county? I highly doubt it.

  8. Daniel Wayne Shank Sr. says:

    If O’Money ws realy woried about JOBS then why would he tax them away? The people of this state are sick nd tired of this moron telling us what we want. We don’t want to give our hard earned freedom to ILLEGAs we are just a haven for them mabe if he worried about the legal people as much their wouldn’t be such a short comming!

  9. Debbie says:

    Maybe O’Malley should read the headlines. Gas prices are rising throughout the state and the last thing we need in this economy is to be lining his pockets to help balance his budget with another tax on a commodity that is increasing in price on its own every day.
    When will we be smart enough to vote for a candidate who cares about us instead of his own aspirations?

  10. Yazied says:

    Don’t forget too that Matthew euitnnocd to follow Jesus as his disciple, leaving his tax collecting practice behind to follow him. It is true that we are in this world, but we are called to be not Of this world. When the pharisees bring to Jesus the woman caught in adultery with stones to kill her, Jesus disarms them, and with kind words calls the woman to go and sin no more.

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