Although apparently dead now, a Schaefer administration plan to impose a sales tax on motor fuel and increase Motor Vehicle Administration fees may find more support next year.
State legislators did not want to enact many new taxes this year, but several predicted that a gasoline tax increase will pass next year.
"Some people will come to realize that . . . if we don't get some money into the fund, we're going to be bumper to bumper," said Del. Tyras S. Athey, D-Anne Arundel.
The bill would have pumped $1.6 billion into the state's depleted Transportation Trust Fund for road projects over the next five years.
The House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee, of which Athey is chairman, unanimously gave the bill a thumbs-down yesterday.
The Senate does not plan to take up the bill because the House's opposition would make its eventual passage unlikely.
"The bill's dead," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's. "I support the gas-tax increase. It's something that's needed now, but others don't agree."
Lawmakers' unwillingness to enact many new taxes during a recession contributed to the bill's defeat, as did their concern for how the revenue would be spent.
House leaders were willing to consider increasing some motor vehicle fees to raise more than $40 million this year, but their potential support vanished after they disagreed with state transportation officials.
The department did not want to borrow as much money as the legislators recommended for new construction projects. Lawmakers wanted more money to go toward such projects, but the department planned to concentrate on maintenance efforts.
Another reason that some committee members voted against the bill, a State House source said, was their fear that the Schaefer administration would use the highway funds as a political tool to reward or punish certain geographical areas.
The bill proposed a 5 percent sales tax on motor fuel plus dozens of increases in MVA charges, including a 25 percent increase in annual vehicle-registration fees. Under the fee proposal, the cost of renewing a driver's license, for example, would have risen from $6 to $20.