Maryland bills seeking to boost fuel tax rate die

| Monday, April 16, 2007

The Maryland General Assembly wrapped up its regular session April 9 without approving legislation that sought to boost the state’s fuel tax rate to help fill the void for needed transportation dollars. Tax increases, however, aren’t a dead issue.

A pair of bills that called for higher per-gallon taxes on diesel and gas failed to meet deadlines to advance from their originating chamber, effectively killing them. The issues could be revisited as early as this fall during a special session. If not, tax rates are expected to draw plenty of discussion when lawmakers return to the Capitol for the 2008 regular session.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Chesapeake Beach, called for tacking 12 cents onto the state’s per-gallon fuel tax rates. The tax for diesel would have increased from 24.5 cents per gallon to 36.5 cents while the gas tax would have increased from 23.5 cents to 35.5 cents.

Miller said his plan would generate $400 million annually. The tax increase would translate into $3 billion in road and bridge work during the next five years because it would allow for the issuance of more bonds, the Baltimore Sun reported.

He wasn’t alone in the push for higher fuel taxes. A similar increase was touted by Delegate Sheila Hixson, D-Silver Spring.

Hixson, chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee, sought a 10-cent-per-gallon increase in the fuel tax.

Both bills included mechanisms for the tax rate to automatically increase with the price of fuel, the Sun reported. Miller’s bill would have prohibited the tax on diesel from increasing above 40.25 cents per gallon. The tax rate for gas couldn’t rise above 39.5 cents.

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