Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., in an expansive mood after being elected president of that chamber for the 26th straight year by a unanimous vote, vowed Wednesday to deliver money for a replacement bridge in a Republican senator's district whether or not minority lawmakers cast votes for a higher gas tax.
Miller told the Republicans his "first order of business" will be to secure financing for the Dover Bridge on Route 331 on the Choptank River between Talbot and Caroline counties. The condition and capacity of the drawbridge has been the subject of concern for more than a decade. In 2003, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. moved the narrow span -- known locally as the "white-knuckle bridge" -- to the front of the line of state highway projects. But Gov. Martin O'Malley deferred the project during the state's transportation budget crunch.
Miller, a supporter of an increase in the state's gas tax as part of a transportation revenue package, said his support is not contingent on getting help from tax-averse Republicans.
"You can sit there and vote red (no), but I'm still going to get that damn bridge built," Miller said.
Senate Minority Leader E. J. Pipkin, one of two Republican senators who represents Caroline County, said he welcomes Miller's announcement but will still oppose any gas tax increase because he believes too much of the money would be spent on urban transit projects.