Happy Gas (and Toll) Tax Day Maryland

The first phase of Maryland’s massive new gas tax increase, takes effect today as well as toll increases around the state.

And Andrew Langer, who commutes from the Eastern Shore to Washington, says the twin increases amount to piling on.  “There are ways to save money and do projects that don’t require the double whammy of a tax hike and a toll hike on the same weekend,” said Langer, a Centreville resident who was sitting in a Bay Bridgebackup as he spoke. He estimated that the increases would cost his family $450 a year.  “A dollar the state is forcing me to spend on them is a dollar I’m not spending on something of my own choosing,” he said.

Andrew and I will be discussing this tonight on The Broadside at 8pm. 

State officials expect the gas tax to rise to 42.5 cents per gallon by 2016, an increase of 80 percent.  If the federal government allows states to collect Internet sales taxes, the increase would only rise to 35.5 cents, a 51 percent increase.

The increased revenue is expected to raise over $4 billion in new revenue for transportation projects. Governor O’Malley announced new projects totaling $1.2 billion including MARC system expansion, widening of the Baltimore Beltway, and Route 29 in Howard County.  O’Malley’s new Secretary of Transportation, Jim Smith told the Baltimore Sun  “They’re [motorists] going to see — fairly quickly — what they’re getting for their money. And that is just the start,” Smith said. “One of my biggest challenges in this role will be to handle the pent-up demand for all the projects that have been in the queue.”

However, the reason these projects have been in the queue for so long is that Governor O’Malley and the Democratic controlled General Assembly raided the $868 million from the Transportation Trust Fund over the last seven years to cover budget deficits. That also includes $771 million in federal stimulus money for infrastructure projects.

Defenders of the gas tax increase say fund raids will no longer occur because voters will have the opportunity to approve a lock box on transportation funds in the 2014 election. If approved, the governor and the legislature can only raid transportation revenue if the governor declares an emergency and a three-fifths majority in the both houses approve the transfer.  Given the Democratic super majority and the past fund raids, it will be hard to imagine $4 billion strolling across State Circle unmolested.

Toll increases include a jump from $3 to $4 to cross the Baltimore Harbor, tolls for the Millard Tydings and Thomas Hatem bridges across the Susquehanna River increase from $6 to $8, and tolls on the William Preston Lane Memorial Bridge (Chesapeake Bay Bridge) and the Harry Nice Memorial Bridge increase from $4 to $6.  

Happy Motoring in the the #wellrunstate

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