Just days after telling members of the Maryland General Assembly it’s time to address the need for additional transportation funding, the president of the Maryland Senate is expressing doubt lawmakers will agree to do so.
Speaking on NewsChannel 8 today, Sen. President Mike Miller predicted “we’re not going to be able to get the votes to raise the gas tax in October.” Miller (D-Calvert) made his comments on “NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt.”
Earlier this week, the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun reported on a letter Miller sent to all 188 members of the state legislature. In it, he said the special session being held this fall should go beyond redistricting to include “greater contributions from the users and beneficiaries of our public infrastructure” (interpreted as a hike in the gas tax, which is currently 23.5 cents a gallon) and “sharing” teacher pension costs with the counties.
Today on NewsTalk, Miller noted that Maryland hasn’t raised the gas tax since 1992. But he then said, “The problem is gas hovering almost to $5 a gallon. I don't think public sentiment is going to being there in terms of the population, it's not going to be there in terms of the legislature, especially with the uncertainty in the middle east. So… somewhere in the near future we're going to have to deal with it. But my prediction is with the current uncertainty, and the high cost of gas, we're not going to be able to get the votes to raise the gas tax in October.”
Former state Senator David Harrington, a Prince George’s Democrat, said, “It sounds like he put a feeler out there and some people gave him a call and said ‘What are you, crazy?’ Miller has always been one where in the first year of a term, that’s when you take the most risk… (But) no one’s going to raise gas taxes now. That would be political suicide.”
Harrington said state leaders need to end the practice of raiding the transportation trust fund. “If they had (restored the money they’ve taken to cover other needs), you wouldn’t need the gas tax,” he said. “The first policy is you don’t raise the transportation trust fund. Or you say you won’t raid the money for mass transit. That’s the policy debate they should be having.”
Miller was asked about the dramatic run-up in the price of gas and complaints from Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler that Maryland lacks a law making price gouging. His reply: “If it's the law in other states and if it was working in other states and if it can bring down the gas prices, Bruce, we will certainly move forward. Also if it's constitutional in terms of telling private enterprise what prices you can set, what prices you can't set, we will certainly move forward in that direction.”
Watch the show below: