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Fix infrastructure but leave gas tax alone

Public Transportation

The Maryland legislative pre-session gas tax drumbeats have certainly begun in earnest, as your recent editorial substantiates ("Pump up the economy," Nov. 25). Not much has changed regarding increasing the gas tax from our or our customers' perspective, the motoring public. Gas prices are still extremely high, and our economy is still in struggle mode. Volatility of gas prices still exists and the brief respite at $3.50 a gallon — if you consider $3.50 a bargain — could quickly be erased.

During the last regular General Assembly session and even during the special sessions, the cry to increase the gas tax was that more revenue would create jobs. That did not seem to resonate well with legislators. We think that while some jobs will be created, the burden on consumers far outweighs any jobs benefit and, in fact, more than likely more jobs will be lost than gained. Taking $500 million to $800 million out of consumers pockets and then putting some back in the form of a few jobs to us does not seem to add up!

So now the mantra is infrastructure. We need more gas tax revenue to improve and repair our aging infrastructure, but that assumes that the funds collected will be used for that purpose. Government spends more than 50 percent of the revenue collected for transportation just on mass transit, with most of those funds going to mass transit operating costs. Not one but two mass transit systems that only serve 4-to-5 percent of the state's population. Is this fact really going to change? What are the state's priorities? It certainly has not been improving our highways and roads!

While our state budget and money poured into mass transit increase substantially every year, highway transportation revenue is diverted to other uses. Over the last few years, close to $1 billion has been diverted and not paid back. This equates to almost a 10-cents-per-gallon tax increase.

While gas tax advocates and some legislators are focused on increasing the gas tax as the only way to get more revenue (for what purpose we are not sure), other alternatives and resetting of the state's transportation priorities must be considered. We don't see an easy quick fix, but the time to start thinking about different alternatives and protecting the transportation revenue for its intended purpose is upon us.

Motorists pay well over 60 percent of the total funds that are collected and should be dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund. Highway users are already paying more than their fair share!

Pete Horrigan, Arnold

The writer is president of the Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributors Association.

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