The Baltimore Sun

Safeguard the trust before a gas tax hike

Jay Hancock's recommendation that we increase the state's gas tax by a dime underscores the importance of creating a constitutional firewall to protect the transportation trust fund ("Maryland could lead the way by raising its gas tax," Feb 4).

There is no denying the need Mr. Hancock cites to build a "21st-century transportation system." But more than $1 billion has been transferred from the fund over the past two decades into the general fund to help balance the state budget. Millions of dollars have yet to be repaid.

While emergency transfers to balance the budget have a rational underpinning, it is imperative that transferred money be replenished within a set time frame to honor a promise to the taxpayers. The fund is called the transportation trust, after all, because motorists trust their government to spend gas tax revenue collected at the pump on transportation improvements.

Legislation has been introduced in recent years to provide a constitutional firewall that would require the repayment of transportation trust dollars to the general fund.

Such a constitutional protection exists in a number of states and is sound public policy.

Any initiative to increase gas taxes must be preceded by the creation of a foundation of trust on transportation policy.

John R. Leopold, Annapolis

The writer is Anne Arundel County executive.

Gaming industry always can game the system

So the gambling corporations that our enlightened political leaders such as state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Gov. Martin O'Malley were counting on to provide a painless tax-free cornucopia of money for the public coffers showed their true colors by trying to game the system ("2 slots bidders did not pay fees," Feb. 4)?

Well now, the silly majority who bought into this Bernard Madoff-worthy scam, and their political mentors in Annapolis, must relearn what we reality-based anti-slots people learned at our mothers' knees and never forgot: With the gambling business, there are no free lunches, free drinks, free rooms or free anything.

John Bosley, Baltimore

Stop prosecuting marijuana users

Isn't it time we stop treating marijuana use more harshly than alcohol or cigarettes ("Phelps speaks out," Feb. 5)?

Have we not inflicted enough mental pain, disruption and expense on users and their families over an activity done by millions of people?

Don't the police and the justice system have other priorities for time and money? Don't we?

Michael Phelps is a young, immature man who is a superb athlete. He's not a font of wisdom or a role model for life outside of training for Olympic success.

But using marijuana should not be a crime for him, or for anyone.

Arthur Milholland, Silver Spring

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