- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley said yesterday that he is still unsure about how to raise money for transportation projects but does not want to increase fees for driver’s licenses and registrations.

“The one thing that all of us know for sure is that the current level of investment in our transportation solutions is not enough to protect our quality of life,” said Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Southern Maryland Democrat, tried unsuccessfully during this year’s General Assembly session to increase the state’s gas tax by 12 cents, a 50 percent increase.

Mr. O’Malley said he would prefer a tax increase that “is fiscally responsible, secures long-term investment in transportation and does so in a way that’s fair to working families and people on fixed incomes.”

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, said a vehicle-titling tax would be a good option.

Supporters say a vehicle-registration tax or a gas tax effects everyone who drives, but a titling tax puts the burden on those who buy more expensive cars and trucks. However, Mr. Busch said lawmakers must consider all options.

“You come up with a menu of options and you see what becomes the fairest and most logical and where you get the most support,” Mr. Busch said.

The state’s Transportation Trust Fund was created in 1971 to support transportation needs. The fund is made up of the state’s gas tax, fees for vehicle registrations, licenses and other fees, and federal aid.

Mr. O’Malley acknowledged in his State of the State address in January that new revenues would be needed.

“We have to recognize that however efficiently and effectively we stretch our current level of investment in transportation solutions, we will never be able to multiply ‘bread and fishes’ to cover the multitude of needs in our state without new dollars,” he said.

Maryland also faces an estimated $1.5 billion structural shortfall next year, the result of spending outpacing income.

Last week, Mr. O’Malley ordered his Cabinet to find spending cuts totaling $200 million, including layoffs of state workers.

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