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News Opinion Readers Respond

Md. Republicans offer realistic alternatives to higher taxes, fees and tolls

I am responding to your editorial in which you take aim at Republicans for daring to protest the gas tax, the rain tax and the tolls that became effective July 1 ("Tolls, taxes and fees," July 3).

Specifically, you condemn the Republican leadership for consistently "reducing complex matters to simplistic catch-phrases," and for doing nothing more than attack, attack and attack.

The editorial makes no mention of Republican efforts through legislation to provide different solutions to the state's transportation infrastructure problems, Chesapeake Bay pollution and the Maryland Transportation Authority's obligation to pay for outstanding bonds. Your editorial is either purposely misleading or you have not done your homework.

You minimize the effect the gas tax will have on Marylanders. It is callous to assert that because of recent gas price decreases, Marylanders will not feel the initial tax increase of 3.5 cents.

You neatly avoid talking about additional gas tax increases that will occur, or that those future increases will be automatically tied to inflation. If wages aren't indexed for inflation, why should taxes be?

It should be emphasized that a gas tax linked to inflation is not subject to review by the General Assembly. Also, you fail to mention that, after grabbing $1 billion in local highway user funds, not one cent of the millions of revenue raised by the gas tax is guaranteed to counties for local roads and streets.

Republican efforts to improve transportation funding are included in our bill to create a separate Mass Transit Account in the Transportation Trust Fund that would balance state expenditures for highways and transit to levels equivalent to their respective 20-year averages.

Counties benefiting from transit could pay for shortfalls with local taxes. The bill provided for a regional taxing authority that would allow the subdivisions to pay for the transportation projects that serve them. There were certainly alternatives to the O'Malley administration's gas tax.

You point your finger at Republicans for objecting to the rain tax and infer that we oppose measures to reduce Chesapeake Bay pollution. However, you fail to mention our efforts to address a major source of pollution — the 2 billion pounds of sediment, along with nitrogen and phosphorus, dumped into the bay every year through the Conowingo Dam.

The dam's inability to filter the flow of pollutants from the Susquehanna River, a major conduit of the bay's pollution, poses a real threat to any effort to prevent polluted rain water from flowing into the bay. Indeed, there are alternatives to the O'Malley administration's rain tax.

Lastly, Republican opposition to toll increases is characterized as a failure to comprehend that the MTA must pay for outstanding bonds. Here again, Republican efforts were ignored. By exchanging the MTA's AA bonds with Maryland AAA bonds, borrowing for transportation facilities could be done at more favorable rates. Thus, toll payers may not have been subject to such drastic increases and the General Assembly would have the ability to review suggested toll hikes. Indeed, there were alternatives to the O'Malley Administration's toll increases.

On one point in the editorial, Republicans agree. "Maryland ought to consider how the tax structure affects its business climate and competitiveness." One must ask what business would want to stay or locate here when a rain tax, nearly as expensive as a property tax, is imposed. What is gained if in raising revenue to combat bay pollution and improve infrastructure, we strangle our economy and lose jobs?

With every criticism of the O'Malley administration's propensity to tax and fee us to death, Republicans have consistently offered better alternatives to the administration's proposals. But time and again the Democratic majorities in Annapolis, not to mention The Sun, have chosen to ignore them.

E.J. Pipkin, Annapolis

The writer represents Kent, Queen Anne's, Cecil, and Caroline counties in the Maryland Senate.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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