Here's what I'd like to see, and I know many readers will join me in the wish: a Maryland elected official who stands on principle and refuses to be a hypocrite. That would make my day. How about yours?
Surely there must be one principled person among the 83 state senators and delegates, Republican and Democrat, who opposed raising the gasoline tax in 2013 and who won re-election in 2014 by decrying it. Surely there must be one man or woman among those 83 who will refuse to remain silent while the Republican governor unloads millions of dollars from that tax on new road projects.
Surely Maryland has principled senators or delegates who fought the gasoline tax in 2013 and who will muster up some polite defiance of Gov. Larry Hogan in 2015 to say thanks, but no thanks to the money scheduled to come into their home counties. The state's Transportation Trust Fund might now be flush with revenue from the tax increase, but that doesn't mean it should be spent on areas that opposed it.
While 76 misguided Democrats in the House of Delegates voted in favor of the gasoline tax increase proposed by Gov. Martin O'Malley, 41 House Republicans and 22 Democrats voted against it. Of those 63 opponents, surely there must be one or two willing to make a stand in 2015.
How about Anthony O'Donnell? He's a Republican who represents Calvert and St. Mary's counties. He was House minority leader at the time O'Malley proposed the first state gasoline tax increase in two decades. O'Donnell voiced firm opposition to the tax, which was projected to raise $2 billion over six years. "It's not a tax increase for transportation, it's a punishment," he said.
So two years later, with Calvert County slated to get $25 million from the state to widen Solomons Island Road at Prince Frederick, O'Donnell can't very well support that. It would be hypocritical.
And that goes for the people of Calvert, particularly the 22,739 who voted for Hogan. A vote for Hogan was a vote against the tax-and-spend legacy of the "Owe'Malley" regime, remember? You can't be taking millions in road money generated from a tax you opposed.
Final passage of the gasoline tax increase came in the Senate, where the vote was 27-20.
One of the 20 nay-sayers was Jim Mathias, a Democratic senator who represents Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties on the Eastern Shore. Now Hogan wants to give Worcester $65 million for an upgrade to U.S. 113 north of Snow Hill. Mathias should remind his constituents how they felt about O'Malley's gasoline tax and ask them to stand with him on principle. They could make a bumper sticker: "Keep Your Conscience Clean, Say No To Funds for One-Thirteen."
Surely the anti-tax citizens from the Eastern Shore to Western Maryland must be thinking along these lines.
Then again ... maybe not.
A lot of people just see what they want to see — a Republican governor spreading the fat to rural areas that a previous governor ignored.
Just the opposite is true, of course.
It was the much-reviled-in-rural-Maryland O'Malley who proposed the gasoline tax increase for both road projects and for public transportation. Republicans and conservative Democrats opposed raising the tax while Baltimore-area lawmakers cast the critical votes in its favor.
Those who supported the tax increase must feel like a bunch of chumps today. Not only did Hogan kill the largest transportation project for this region in a generation — the $3 billion Red Line light rail system — but he's using the millions that would have gone to Big Red for the new road projects, none of them in Baltimore and only a minor one in Baltimore County.
Hogan's transportation secretary, Pete Rahn, spoke Tuesday of Hogan's "vision," and the vision appears to be in a rear-view mirror — no new public transportation projects and road, roads, roads.
Even roads of highly dubious economic benefit, like the $90 million realignment of U.S. 219 north, between the Interstate 68 interchange and the Pennsylvania line. While a big chunk of that particular outlay is federal money, the realignment appears to be the kind of project a waste-sniffing Republican like Hogan would question, not embrace.
But this part of the world — Maryland transportation — is upside down today.
We spent millions of dollars and burned hundreds of thousands of hours developing the Red Line project over the last decade-plus. Officials of two administrations negotiated for the funds — federal, state and local — that would make it possible. The state seemed poised to lift the Baltimore region into the 21st century with a transformative transit system. Then, in a sweeping change, a new governor erases the project — at one of the worst times in the city's history — and throws the savings to other areas of the state, topping off the tank with more money from a gasoline tax most of those areas opposed.