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Democratic lawmakers in Maryland wary of gas tax
ANNAPOLIS — Democratic lawmakers were reluctant Tuesday to praise or criticize Gov. Martin O'Malley’s proposal to levy a sales tax on gas but acknowledged the idea could prove very unpopular among motorists, business owners and other constituents who have already balked at proposals for smaller gas-tax increases.
The proposal could eventually add more than 20 cents to the cost of a gallon of gas.
“It’s going to be an extremely tough sell,” said Mr. Miller, Prince George’s Democrat. “He’s not going to be able to convince the electorate why it’s the best thing for them, but it’s the responsibility of elected leaders to lead.”
Democratic lawmakers have said a gas-tax increase will be necessary in this year's Assembly to help generate hundreds of millions of dollars for transportation projects. The current 23.5-cents-a-gallon excise tax has been unchanged since 1992.
The governor’s proposal to add a sales tax could eventually generate more than $600 million a year, about $100 million more than a recent state commission’s proposal to increase the excise tax by 15 cents — a proposal some lawmakers already worried was too heavy-handed and costly to residents, though the excise tax would be charged to gas distributors, rather than directly to consumers at the pump.
Mr. Miller also has said there is likely to be Senate support for a gas-tax hike but that an increase could have less support in the House, where lawmakers may be more concerned about the political ramifications of raising gas prices than its benefits to motorists.
“I think it’s a ridiculous idea and it really kicks Marylanders when they are down,” said House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, Calvert Republican. “To toss this around this cavalierly as a leader of the state is irresponsible.”
The governor, however, said Tuesday he is firmly behind adding a sales tax and will continue to push his proposal despite public concerns.
“I have concerns about many things,” he said. “But there’s nothing I’m more concerned about than moving our middle class forward and out of this recession.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
David Hill joined The Washington Times in February 2011 as a Maryland political reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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