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Md. legislative leaders say gas tax a tough sell

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 4, 2013 at 12:15 pm •  Published: January 4, 2013

CAMBRIDGE, Md. (AP) — While Maryland legislative leaders say they are painfully aware of the need for additional transportation money, they didn't sound very confident on Friday during a preview of the upcoming session that there will be enough support in the Legislature to produce a revenue package of the magnitude that is needed.

Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, who chairs the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, told participants at the Maryland Association of Counties winter meeting that tough votes on tax increases in recent years have worn out lawmakers on that idea.

"These people are fatigued," said Kasemeyer, D-Baltimore County.

Delegate Anthony O'Donnell, a Calvert County Republican who is the House minority leader, said taxpayers are tired of tax increases as well.

"I think our citizens are maxed out," O'Donnell said.

Maryland's Transportation Trust Fund has been in dire circumstances for years, and lawmakers have helped fill budget holes during the recession and its aftermath by steering money away from local transportation projects.

Maryland's 23.5 percent per-gallon gas tax was set in 1992.

Last year, Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, proposed phasing in a 6 percent sales tax on gasoline at 2 percent a year to raise roughly $613 million annually in new revenue. But the proposal never got traction.

Besides fatigue from recent tax increases, Kasemeyer noted that the state has been without a permanent transportation secretary since Beverley Swaim-Staley left in July.

"I think it's going to be difficult," Kasemeyer said about raising new revenues. "The main reason I think it's going to be difficult is we really don't have a secretary. We don't have somebody who's experienced and understands the issue, has the relationships to approach legislators, understand what they need and make the deal that has to be made to get what you want."

Kasemeyer also said a comprehensive approach would be needed to truly address the problem, not just a measure that addresses the matter halfway.

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