Jermaine Jones, business manager for the Baltimore-based Local 710 of the Laborers International Union, said the schools, transportation, casino and other work will be good for his members.

"Right now we have more members out of work than we've ever had," he said. "This is not extra spending. These are jobs that people certainly need."

Anirban Basu, president of the Sage Policy Group, identified a downside to the revenue measure in a report he prepared for the conservative Americans for Prosperity Foundation. In that study, whose findings Reilly cited during floor debate, Basu found a 3 percent sales tax on gasoline — the amount Marylanders will start paying in 2015 — could cost the state almost 1,000 jobs and the loss of $124 million in economic activity.

Basu said in an interview, however, that his study did not examine the potential benefits of the expected boost in construction activity. He said it is hard to predict, given that state leaders have in the past diverted money raised for transportation for other purposes.

"If they spend it on transportation in the first place and they pick the right projects, the benefits then could outweigh the costs," he said.

Basu was less equivocal about the Baltimore school construction plan, which he predicted would have a "huge" impact — particularly if some of the counties launch similar initiatives.

David G. Lever, executive director of the state's Interagency Committee on School Construction, said the last five years have been rough on companies that specialize in school construction. As construction activity fell in recent years, he said, more bidders entered the market for each contract, driving prices and profit margins down.

Lever said it will be at least a year — and probably longer — before the money begins to flow into the new Baltimore school construction program. "When they do start, it's not going to be all 15 schools starting at once," Lever said. "At full bore, when this really is up and running, there could be a lot of projects going simultaneously."

Lever said the heightened activity will bring its own set of challenges. He said increased demand could lead to increases in the cost of materials and equipment, while the lure of a $1 billion pile of money could bring some poorly qualified contractors into the bidding.

"You'll about have to double your scrutiny to make sure the projects are being built correctly," he said.

Erin Henson, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said the new gas tax revenue could allow the state to move up the start dates on some small projects. She said the department will certainly add some larger projects it previously couldn't afford to its comprehensive spending plan this fall — money that could begin flowing next year.

Henson said there is no lack of projects that have been designed and engineered and could move to the construction phase quickly.

Jim Russ, president of the Maryland Transportation Builders and Materials Association, said the additional revenue will help a wide variety of firms that have struggled through an industry "meltdown." He said the hard-pressed engineering sector will be among the first to benefit, while suppliers of asphalt, concrete and other road-building materials will also see a boost.

"By next year we'll start to see some relief," he said.

Flanigan said he's confident his industry will be able to ramp up to meet the increased demand, even if some workers have drifted away from construction.

"The capacity's there in the industry to do a whole lot more than we've been doing the past couple of years," he said. "We'll find people who are ready to come into the industry and learn it. It's a good industry to be a part of."

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

Construction spending

•State lottery money will help Baltimore borrow $1 billion to build 15 schools and renovate others

•Higher gas taxes will raise $600 million a year to pay for highway and mass transit projects in Maryland

•Preliminary work has begun on a $400 million privately owned casino in Baltimore, the result of state gambling laws

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts
  • An earlier version of this article misstated the time period over which jobs would be added through the transportation revenue bill. The Sun regrets the error.