- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
This story was corrected on March 14, 2012. An explanation follows the story.
Paying more at the pump may not be convenient, but investing in transportation infrastructure is essential, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) told lawmakers as he lobbied for his gas tax proposal Wednesday in Annapolis.
“The cost of inaction is greater than the cost of action,” O’Malley testified at a joint hearing of the House Environmental Matters and Ways and Means Committees.
The state has the longest average daily commute in the nation, and improvements to roads, bridges and mass transit would help ease congestion and let residents spend less time in traffic and more time with their families, O’Malley said.
Furthermore, without the additional revenue, projects such as rebuilding the Dover Bridge in Talbot County and constructing the Purple Line light rail system in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties would be jeopardized, O’Malley said.
The governor’s proposal would add a 6 percent sales tax to the price of gasoline, phased in over three years, to raise $615 million per year for infrastructure projects.
Opponents, including Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), have criticized the tax, arguing that with the economy recovering slowly, consumers cannot afford an increased cost.
Just before Wednesday’s hearings, the conservative advocacy group Americans For Prosperity held a rally against the tax outside the State House that drew several dozen people.
“This is just an attack on working-class families [and businesses],” said Nick Loffer, the group’s Maryland grassroots director. “They can’t afford any more out of their budgets during a recession.”
Officials such as Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) also testified about the infrastructure needs of local jurisdictions.
Prince George’s has about 5,000 miles of road that need maintenance at a cost of about $160 million per year, and constituents were consistently asking for repairs to sidewalks and infrastructure, Baker said. “The only way that we can do that is with revenue,” he said.
Without funding for repairs, Baltimore could have to close as many as 15 bridges around the city within the next two years, Rawlings-Blake said.
Leggett argued that transportation funding was crucial to the success of economic development projects in Montgomery.
Legislative support for O’Malley’s proposal is reportedly dwindling. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach told reporters this week a recent rise in the price of gas might have soured lawmakers on the tax.
Correction: The governor’s proposal would add a 6 percent sales tax to the price of gasoline, phased in over three years.