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County delegates say passing increase on gas tax will be difficult

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Gun control, the abolition of the death penalty, a gas tax increase and offshore wind power will be just some of the topics on the agenda when the Maryland General Assembly convenes Wednesday in Annapolis.

But some Howard County delegation members agreed last week that one item in particular — raising the gas tax — will be a hard sell.

"No one wants to do a gas tax, but we're at a place where revenue is just maintenance," said Del. Steven DeBoy, one of 11 county delegation members. "There's nothing for new projects."

DeBoy, who represents both Howard and Baltimore counties in District 12A, was one of six of delegation members to attend the League of Women Voters of Howard County legislative luncheon Jan. 5. at Bethany United Methodist Church in Ellicott City.

Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, a Columbia Democrat, said even though numerous studies show a need for additional transportation revenue, an increase in the gas tax would be "very difficult to accomplish."

Kasemeyer said the reason last year's proposal to increase the gas tax went nowhere was because legislators are "aware of the burden on residents."

He added that a five to 10 cent increase wouldn't be sufficient to fund new transportation projects on top of road maintenance.

The state's current gas tax is 23.5 cents a gallon, and hasn't been raised in 20 years.

Del. Warren Miller, a Woodbine Republican, warned that the state cannot continue to rely on tax increases.

"Within one year, we will see Maryland service stations suffering because residents will drive out of state for gas," he said.

For Del. Gail Bates, a West Friendship Republican, the concern is that the revenue generated by the gas tax would be directed to mass transit projects instead of road and bridge repairs.

But Del. James Malone, chair of the Motor Vehicles and Transportation subcommittee, said mass transit projects are needed in the state.

"If we build it, people will ride it," said Malone, a Halethorpe Democrat.

Sen. Jim Robey, an Elkridge Democrat, called the state transportation issue a "mess," and without the necessary funds the state will have "serious issues."

Robey added that it was also time the state had a "serious discussion" about gun control.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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