Garagiola: Increase gas tax by eight to 10 cents
The bill is still shifting, but it will likely include an eight to 10 cent increase to the gas tax and as much as a 50 percent cross-the-board hike in motor vehicle registration fees, he said. The current gas tax is 23.5 cents.
A key element of Garagiola's bill will be a constitutional amendment that puts the new transportation revenues in a lockbox. The idea is to wall off the funds so future governors can't transfer transportation money to pay for day-to-day state operating costs.
He outlined the idea last week with a group of business leaders who also support higher taxes as long as the money stays in transportation. Gov. Martin O'Malley moved $100 million away from roads and transit this year, and has employed similar maneuvers in the past.
The constitution can't be changed before November 2012 -- so in the meantime any new money from a gas tax increase would be fair game for transfers. Garagiola (a chess player) said it's important to think a few years ahead.
His bill also won't specify that funds should go to counties -- but he intends about $100 million to help them. He noted that the sum is deceptively low, because the infusion of cash will also allow the counties to borrow more from Wall Street if they so choose. The counties are receiving $420 million less in road repair money than they did in 2006.