Last Friday, the House of Delegates passed Gov. Martin O'Malley's gas tax increase, HB 1515, which raises gas taxes 88 percent by 2017.
HB 1515 indexes the gas tax to the inflationary consumer price index, meaning that it will go up permanently without having another vote by the General Assembly. This is an eternal tax, perpetually increasing. It also adds a 3 percent sales tax rate to gasoline.
Perhaps even worse, HB 1515 does nothing to secure the Transportation Trust Fund from being raided. It simply requires a three-fifths vote of the House and Senate budget committees, hardly a tough threshold.
House Republicans and some Democrats fought this every step of the way, even trying to amend the bill to at least provide security for the Transportation Trust Fund. Del. Susan Krebs, R-9B, has had a bill in for many years, which I've co-sponsored, to secure the fund from raiding. The majority party refuses to vote on it.
HB 1515 now moves over to the Senate. I encourage readers to make their voices heard by contacting their senator. This increase prices the middle class out of our state and really harms rural residents and the working poor. It's not just the cost of driving to work that goes up with this increase, it's the price of groceries, clothes and other essentials.
While we do need more funding dedicated to our roads, I have no confidence that government will spend this new revenue any differently than it has spent what we already pay.
Right now, only 30 percent of Transportation Trust Fund money is spent on roads. Over 50 percent is spent on mass transit, which fewer than one in 10 Marylanders use. Over $1 billion has been taken from the fund and not repaid. It is clear this is a rotten deal.
Once again, Marylanders are facing an enormous tax increase with no guarantee that the revenues will be spent on what the tax is for. I hope that in the Senate, Democrats will join with Republicans in saying no, or at the very least, reducing this increase to a modest, fixed amount while protecting the Transportation Trust Fund from raiding.
Because of the significant impact this will have, I wanted to be sure to share my reasons for voting no. Though we have some significant transportation needs, I could not support such a large, eternally increasing tax hike that removes accountability from elected officials. As always, I welcome your feedback. Thank you for the opportunity to serve.