Day one of the Maryland General Assembly's yearly session started with a curveball, as governor Martin O'Malley talked about the possibility of raising the state sales tax. O'Malley said he'd rather raise the sales tax one penny to pay for transportation projects than ask lawmakers for hikes in the gas and flush taxes. The sales tax did go up a penny during his first year in office, but just because O'Malley wants the same this time around doesn't mean he will ask for it.
"I'm saying it's another idea," says O'Malley. "If the legislature doesn't like the things that are proposed, I think that we should remember that no one in our state lost a job or lost a home or lost a business because of an additional penny on the sales tax."
Fellow Democrat, senate president Mike Miller, called it a "non-starter." Republicans, including senator E.J. Pipken were even more harsh.
"To ask for an increase in the sales tax is just off the charts," says Pipken. "I've said it before... I've just wonder what universe this governor is living in."
Leaders in both chambers said raising the gas tax is more palatable to
their members, with house speaker Mike Busch saying the county
executives in the state's larger jurisdictions need to voice their
support. Rushern Baker of Prince George's County was glad to do so.
"We've got the most undeveloped Metro sites in Prince George's County, 15 of them," says Baker. "With the dollars from the gas tax, we can use that not only to fix our roads but also expand the infrastructure around that. That will create jobs not just for Prince George's County and for the state of Maryland."
Baker's county will play a central role in two other major issues during the session: whether to expand gaming by adding a sixth casino license for a facility in Prince George's county and same-sex marriage, as it was the Prince George's delegation in the house that stopped a bill legalizing it last year.