Maryland transportation plan could cost drivers more at the pump

Michael Bastasch Energy Editor
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On the heels of passing an offshore wind power bill that will increase Marylanders’ utility bills, the state’s House of Delegates is poised to pass a transportation funding bill that could force drivers to pay substantially more for gas by mid-2016.

The plan, backed by Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, would phase in higher gas taxes over several years, reports the Washington Post, and would be used to fund highway construction and mass transit projects.

Gas taxes would increase by 3.8 cents per gallon this July and would be 16 cent per gallon higher than it is now by 2016, reports the Baltimore Sun. The gas tax could cost drivers about 39.5 cents per gallon by 2016.

The transportation bill would phase in a sales tax on gas and tie future increases in the tax to inflation.

However, the plan has been criticized by state Republicans who also attempted to stall the bill as it progressed through the legislature.

“This bill puts the gas tax on autopilot, and it locks us out of the cockpit,” said Republican Del. Herbert McMillan, who offered an amendment that would block the gas tax from being tied to inflation.

“It’s not a tax increase for transportation, it’s a punishment, in my opinion,” said Republican House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell.

The bill’s supporters contended that they did all they could to minimize the impacts on their constituents. The Post reports that the initial rise in prices would cost drivers about $19 a year, but eventually cost them up to $100 per year.

“We want to phase it in as gradually as we can for our constituents,” said Democratic House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve.

“As a legislator, if I’m going to take heat from some of my constituents, I’d rather take heat on legislation that’s going to meet our needs,” said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Garagiola. “If we don’t get new money in the transportation trust fund, there are no new projects on the horizon.”

The Baltimore Sun reports that the bill increase gas taxes by about $600 million per after it’s fully implemented in 2017.

“We are pricing middle-class families, and certainly the working-class poor, out of our state,” said Republican Del. Justin Ready.

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