Maryland motorists balk at proposed sales tax on gas

6% hike while many are running on empty

LUTHERVILLE, Md. - Running on empty, many Marylanders are paying more at the gas pump and cutting back on burning it where they can.

"Now, I carpool with another co-worker so that helps a little bit," said Leslie Davis of Parkton as she filled up at the Oceanic gas station on York Road in Lutherville.

"Sometimes I have to cut out church or Bible study because I can't afford to go to both," added Angela Batson, a Parkville house cleaner.

Even those who sell gas aren't sold on the idea of adding on a sales tax.

"The higher they drive the price, the less people are going to drive, the less you're going to sell, the less money you can make," said the gas station's owner, Ace Hughes.

Even the man behind the proposed 6-percent sales tax on gas purchases, Governor Martin O'Malley, says he knows it's a tough sale, but he says it's necessary.

"There's not a tougher revenue to ask for than a gas tax and it hasn't been changed since the 1990s," said O'Malley, "so the buying power of that 23 cents, a flat 23 cents, has declined over the years and we're paying already and we stand to pay a lot more if we do nothing."

The governor says by adding A 2-percent sales tax in each of the next three years, Maryland could improve the roads, cut down on congestion and put people to work.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is buying into it.

"Think about the Baltimore Beltway," said Kamenetz, "It's 90 percent located in Baltimore County, and we rely upon state funding to make improvements, as well as federal funding, to Interstate 695.  That's important to us here in Baltimore County.  That's our economic engine, and you got to pay the price."

A price, which would tax everyone, including those who can least afford it.

"I'm only putting ten (gallons) in for 2.8 gallons," said Batson.
"How far will that get you?"
"Probably to my next job, which is right down the street, and back home."

If gas prices spike, the governor's proposal would postpone the 2-percent tax increase in any given year.

He's also included provisions to make it more difficult for lawmakers to raid the Transportation Trust Fund to balance the state budget.

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