Another day, another proposed tax increase. Maryland drivers face two more taxes on gasoline under the new transportation-funding plan proposed by Maryland Senate president, Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. The plan would allow counties to charge their own gas tax up to 5 cents per gallon and attach a sales tax to gasoline to pay for local projects. The plan is projected to partially eliminate gasoline's exemption from the state's 6 percent sales tax, applying a 3 percent sales tax to the sale of gas. For a driver with an average sized 20-gallon tank, at the average cost of gas per gallon in Maryland, that's about an extra $2 per fill up.
Last year, Governor Martin O'Malley discussed levying the full sales tax on gasoline. His proposal was projected to raise over $600 million a year. The new proposal presented by Miller is projected to raise an estimated $300 million.
The issue is, the state would not need to raise millions of dollars if the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund had not been tapped into to fill holes in the general fund. The TTF was set up years ago to collect highway user fees and dedicate the revenue to the roadway improvement projects across the state. Over the years, the TTF has been raided to the point that it is no longer sustainable and has no money to start new projects. It is projected to go bankrupt by 2018.
The first step to protecting the TTF is being taken, with legislation being proposed that would stop inappropriate raiding of the fund. The next step is to ensure that these proposed tax increases would only be implemented as long as needed to restore the TTF, and the state would not take on new projects that it cannot support until the fund is fully restored. This is the main problem with Miller's proposal. His proposal would create regional transit authorities with currently unspecified taxing powers. These authorities could potentially increase property taxes in the counties to help pay for projects, such as Montgomery and Prince George's counties' planned Purple Line light rail; the Red Line in Baltimore; and the Corridor Cities Transitway bus line planned for the Interstate 270 corridor north of Shady Grove. These projects are not something the state can realistically take on right now, and concerns need to be refocused to stabilizing the economy.
Delegate Joe Boteler III
No taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant.George Washington