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Democratic lawmakers have expressed increasing confidence in recent weeks that they will successfully raise the gas tax, despite cries that it could disproportionately affect poorer residents who have long commutes or older, less fuel-efficient vehicles.

Mr. Miller, who has said publicly that he expects to pass an increase, said the assembly almost certainly will leave the sales tax untouched.

Mr. O’Malley, who appears to have national political aspirations and must retire as governor in 2014 because of term limits, said he has not seen “much political will” for a gas-tax increase and called a sales-tax increase just “another idea.”

Whatever method they choose, Democrats have acknowledged they almost certainly will raise taxes this year to improve public infrastructure and create jobs, many of which would be in construction-related fields.

“There are some challenges facing us this year,” said Mr. Busch. “We face an economy that is still moving out of the recession.”

While Democrats make up nearly three-fourths of the General Assembly, they will receive significant resistance from Republicans, who have called for major spending cuts and discouraged any tax increases while the economy remains sluggish.

House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, Calvert Republican, argued that the state’s “tax-and-spend” leadership is placing a greater economic burden on residents and forcing many businesses out of Maryland.

“We’ll look for opportunities to work together where we can,” said Mr. O’Donnell, who was elected unanimously this week to lead the GOP House caucus for a sixth consecutive year. “But our first order of business is to make sure that these folks - in their zeal to say they’re doing something - aren’t doing any more damage.”

GOP lawmakers are expected to start a fight against what some have called the state’s “war on rural Maryland.” Republicans have argued that many of the state’s recent initiatives - including toll hikes, a statewide planning policy aimed at reducing sprawl and potential environmental restrictions and tax increases - are designed to stifle economic growth in rural, conservative areas and funnel money and power into urban regions with more Democrats.

Mr. Miller dismissed the notion Wednesday while speaking to Senate Democrats. He called for bipartisanship in the assembly and said the state is keeping all residents in mind as it is forced to make many difficult decisions.

“There’s not going to be any war on rural Maryland,” he said. “But at the same time, we need to recognize that we do need planned and orderly growth, we need to protect the Chesapeake Bay, we need to balance the budget and we need revenue.”