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Maryland House Moves Gas Tax Forward, Caps Yearly Increases

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House lawmakers gave their approval to the gas tax, after hearing several proposed amendments.
Matt Bush
House lawmakers gave their approval to the gas tax, after hearing several proposed amendments.

The Maryland House of Delegates has advanced a bill that raises taxes on gasoline to pay for new mass transit projects.

Delegates rejected eight amendments to the bill, while accepting three. One that got the thumbs up would cap any yearly per-gallon gas tax hike at 8 percent. The bill calls for that tax to rise annually with the rate of inflation, drawing the ire of Republicans like Kathy Szeliga of Baltimore and Harford Counties, who called this increase a first for the state.

"This would be the eternal tax that would go up every year," Szeliga says. "Because property taxes have gone down because assessments have gone down."

Democratic House leader Kumar Barve of Montgomery County responded that annual inflation jump mirrors the annual rise in construction and maintenance costs.

"The price will keep pace with the rate of inflation, just as the cost of asphalt does," Barve says. "Just as the cost of concrete would."

Gov. Martin O'Malley's initial proposal actually cut the per-gallon tax rate while aggressively phasing a sales tax on the wholesale price of gas. A House committee slowed that sales tax introduction, offsetting the drop in revenue with the per-gallon tax hike.

Supporters say new money is needed to build mass transit projects like the Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway in the D.C. suburbs.

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