With the price of gasoline rapidly climbing toward $4 per gallon, the prospect of paying an additional tax on gas is not sitting well with county residents and businesses.
"Another 18 cents per gallon?" Columbia resident Nick Smalley said, after being told how much officials are expecting the tax to cost. "That would be ridiculous."
Gov.Martin O'Malleyhas proposed applying the state's 6 percent sales tax to gasoline, an increase officials estimate would cost between 18 to 21 cents at current prices, and using the money to replenish the state's Transportation Trust Fund, created to pay for road and bridge projects but tapped over the years for other uses.
If approved by the General Assembly, the tax would be phased in at 2 percent per year, starting June 1.
"I'm not looking forward to it," 22-year-old Ellicott City resident Nick Bennett said about O'Malley's proposal as he filled up his tank Feb. 20 at the Exxon station at the corner of Little Patuxent and Governor Warfield parkways.
Bennett said gas prices are already "bad enough" — $3.73 for regular at the Columbia Exxon that day — and he can't cut down on consumption because he has to get to work in Clarksville and school at Howard Community College in Columbia.
The average price for gas in the state of Maryland was $3.62 per gallon as of Feb. 21, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Christine Delise. One year ago, she said, the average gas price was $3.12 a gallon.
Since the beginning of 2012, when the average gas price was $3.26 a gallon, prices have increased by 11 percent, Delise said.
"We are anticipating that prices could approach $4 in the spring," she said.
Prices could still be high in June, when the governor's proposal would take effect, as Delise said prices typically peak around May and stay steady until about August, when they start to decline.
Columbia resident Kim Reyes, 48, said O'Malley's proposal to apply the sales tax to gasoline is "unbelievable," especially given how high prices have been lately.
"It's kind of hard on everybody, including me and my family," she said at the Columbia Exxon Feb. 20. "We rarely go out now because gas is so expensive."
Tom Kravulski, 28, said his commute from his home in Columbia to his job in Rockville has him filling up his 20-gallon tank about once a week. After quickly calculating the math as he pumped gas into his car at the Exxon, he said the sales tax on gasoline would cost "an extra couple bucks a week," and an extra $200 some a year.
"It's not something I'm really happy about," Kravulski said. "I would have to cut expenses elsewhere I guess."
Smalley, 26, said he doesn't drive too often, mostly to and from his job in Ellicott City and errands he runs in between.
"There's not a whole lot I can cut down on what I drive," he said.
The gas-guzzling truck that Smalley drives already has him paying more in gas than most people. He said his truck only gets 12-15 miles per gallon. Thus, his reaction to hearing about a possible gas tax increase: "This kind of makes me wish I had my little brother's Ford Focus."
Smalley said that a gas tax increase would be an annoyance to him personally, but he foresees it having a greater impact on the landscaping company where he works as a supervisor. Ellicott City-based D.A. Picco, Smalley said, has to put gas in its pick-up trucks, dump trucks, as well as various gas-powered lawn-care tools.
Earl Doornbos, store manager of Good to Go Markets, which rents space from Sunco at the Long Gate Shopping Center gas station where Smalley was filling up his tank, said applying the sales tax to gasoline is "really outrageous.