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November 11, 2011

Groups favor gas tax rise -- with conditions

A group of environmental and pro-transit organizations say they're all in favor of raising Maryland's 23.5-cent-a-gallon gas tax -- but only if their conditions are met.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth, 1,000 Friends of Maryland, Action Committee for Transit and other groups issued a joint news release Thursday in which they called on the General Assembly to agree to tighter controls on how any additional money is spent before raising more revenue.

Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of 1,000 Friends, said the groups' support for any gas tax increase is conditional on the legislature adopting measures to ensure that money is spent on projects that are not "business as usual."

The groups said the want to legislature to adopt spending guidelines to ensure that spending is directed to what Stuart Schwartz of the smart growth coalition called "fiscally, prudent, environmentally sustainable" projects.

Schwartz named the Baltimore Red Line and suburban Washington Purple Line -- both high-ticket light rail projects -- and an expanded MARC system as examples of spending the groups want the legislatures to commit to.

The groups were critical of any spending on new highway capacity, arguing that maintenance of existing roads should be the priority.

The environmentalists' position could divide them from some of the other potential members of a coalition in favor of raising transportation revenues. Local governments, for instance, are in many cases desperate for additional money to spend on roads but jealously guard their control of  how it should be spent.

Other groups point to transit spending as one of the reasons they would oppose a gas tax increase and other transportation revenues. These groups, however, may have little influence with the lawmakers who are possible yes votes. The environmental and transit groups, on the other hand, have clout with the legislators who would likely form the core of any pro-tax coalition -- especially lawmakers from Baltimore city and Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

A blue-ribbon commission recently recommended a 15-cent increase in the gas tax in three increments of a nickel, as well as increased vehicle registration fees. They pointed to what they called a deficit of at least $800 million in what it will take to keep up with the state's transportation needs.

But one of the members of that commission, Rob Etgen, said he was not part of the reported "consensus" by which the panel reached its recommendations. Etgen, executive director of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and a signatory to the news release, said the commission should have paid more attention to how transportation is spent instead of concentrating on raising revenue.

Etgen said he favors transit spending, but is more concerned about stopping highway expansion or a third Bay Bridge than about Western Shore matters such as the two transit lines.

The differences among the environmental groups illustrate the difficulty of assembling a coalition to back any transportation revenue increase.

Several leading business groups say they support a tax increase -- but only if their own key condition is met: an ironclad guarantee that transportation revenue will no longer be used to plug holes in the general fund budget.

Proponents face an uphill battle when so many of them are offering only conditional support. Opponents of any increase have no such reservations. They just want to kill it.

Other groups joining in the news release include Prince George's Advocates for Community-Based Transit, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and the Red Line Now PAC.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:24 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: For policy wonks only


I think most people can agree that transportation funds simply cannot be a rainy day fund for the general budget. Don't tax my gas for schools, social services, and political nonsense. It's fraudulent to fix the general fund with it!

Give me a break this is a receipe for disaster. I will avoid buying gas any way I can. O'Malley proves his stupidity once again.

After Obonzo is tossed out of offfice, the significant American oil fields will free us from the muslim yoke.

Maryland's state motto should be changed to: if you are stupid, you must be from Maryland. Those who are condoning a high gas tax at the pumps, are essentially burdening the poor and middle class not the wealthy. Every good and service used by these groups will cost more. O'Malley's crusade to move higher in the food chain by Obamarizing the state is reflect in this newest tax to be inflicted on the public. Maryland citizens deserve these taxes, they keep placing the same idiots in power.

Why should anyone be surprised at O Malley and his liberal cronies,Mike Miller
and Michael Busch wanting to raise the gas
tax,this is what democrats do. They have never met a tax they did,nt fall in love with.
Until the brainwashed electorate makes
Maryland a two party state again this is what you can expect from Maryland lawmakers.
We are in essence living under a
Democratic dictatorship.

Gas tax is a tax on the poor. If someone that makes $2,000 a month spends $200 per month on fuel to get to and from work will spend 10% of their income. Someone that makes $20,000 a month and spends $200 per month on fuel to get to and from work will spend 1% of their income.

The government needs to stop this "oh I need more money for some special project so let me tax you more!" thought process. Hey, Government, DO MORE WITH LESS, that's what the rest of us do.

Prices are already at a deathly $3.30+ a gallon with no drop in sight. Oil companies have 'trained' us to accept higher prices. Now the Government thinks they don't get enough of our money because the economy is down and they aren't collecting as much revenue. Hey Government, people spend more money if they have more of it to spend. That spending buys products, those products are taxed.

You already have a plan to doubled the toll roads, have implemented sales tax increase from 5% to 6%, and you still always want more.

Money for road repair and public transit has to come from somewhere. I'd rather have a usage tax like a gasoline tax, because it puts the burden of payment on those who put more strain on the roads. It's a more economically efficient tax. And, when roads are in better repair, it saves money on wear and tear on car suspensions, tires, and wheel alignments. The money does need to go toward transportation needs, however, not to the general fund.

Regarding Phillip's comments about the poor, someone who commutes to work ought to have a car that gets 25mpg. However, let's be generous and assume this "poor" commuter only gets 20mpg. $200 a month for an average of 23 work days at $3.30 a gallon gives you a round trip commute of over 50 miles a day. Sorry, but poor people don't commute like that. They get a rental closer to work, or take public transportation. More money for better public transportation means things get better for the poor, not worse. Sounds more like the complaint of suburbanites traveling from Bel Air to downtown, or Baltimore to Washington every day.

Do these people truly believe that Annapolis is going to stop stealing money from every dedicated fund they find? It's been going on since Schaeffer was governor, and probably before.

Just stop the lies and make-believe. Stop the "user fees". None of the monies collected are spent on the "uses" the "fees" are supposed to be collected for. Is the flush tax spent on wastewater infrastructure and the Chesapeake Bay?

The only way I will accept a higher gas tax is if the Governor will say "Hands off the Transportation Fund except for road use and it will not be used to prop up the Rainy Day Funds or General Budget."

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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