- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
In the 11th hour, Gov. Martin O’Malley and leadership in the General Assembly announced a plan to address long-term funding of transportation projects.
O’Malley (D), flanked by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Prince George’s) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), announced the $3.4 billion plan Monday night, just before the assembly went into session.
Monday was the last day to introduce bills this session without requiring a two-thirds super-majority in both the House and Senate.
The consensus plan — which would generate about $800 million in revenue each year and $3.4 billion over five years — adds a 2 percent tax at the wholesale level on motor fuels this July and increases that tax to 4 percent in July 2014. The plan also takes 5 cents off the state’s 23.5 cent-per-gallon gasoline tax in July and indexes future increases to inflation. The tax on diesel fuel would remain 24.25 cents per gallon.
The total effect of the changes will mean an additional 2 cents per gallon at the gas pump this July and an additional 7 cents in 2014, O’Malley said.
In addition, fares charged by the Maryland Transit Authority will be indexed to inflation. Should the federal government give states the authority to tax Internet purchases, a portion of that revenue also will be set aside for transportation.
The proposal also includes a lockbox provision. A series of requirements, including a super-majority vote in committee, must be met before transportation dollars could be used for other purposes.
A working group also would be set up under the proposal to study funding for local transportation projects.
State officials have estimated that without such a deal, funding for new projects and construction will be almost zero in 2017, and all revenue will have to go toward maintenance of current infrastructure.
The proposals, O’Malley said, will allow projects such as the light rail Purple Line and the 15-mile bus rapid transit Corridor Cities Transitway along the Interstate 270 corridor to move forward, although amounts for each project are not designated in the proposal.
Although the transportation budget has long been a concern, action in Virginia in the past weeks further spurred Maryland leaders to make a deal.
“Virginia ... just passed a transportation program that we’re all aware of, because they know the competition in the D.C. suburbs for the job market,” Busch said. “Virginia has put themselves in a position to get to the front of the line. We have to be up there with them.”
O’Malley proposed two different plans for transportation funding last year, neither of which made it out of the General Assembly.
The three men have been working over the past few weeks to hammer out a deal that could be palatable to both chambers.