Liberal pundits are tripping all over themselves to praise the "courage" of lame-duck Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley for his attempt to yet again raise taxes in Maryland. In addition to doubling the "flush tax," O'Malley wants to raise $600 million annually by slapping a 21-cent sales tax on each gallon of gasoline -- in addition to the state's current 23.5-cent gas tax and the 18.4 cents per gallon the federal government collects. Although this regressive sales tax allegedly would mostly close a gaping $1.1 billion budget hole caused by O'Malley's reckless overspending, it would be at the expense of Marylanders least able to afford it.
O'Malley told the General Assembly that raising the gas tax by 64 percent is needed to reduce traffic congestion. But in a study for the Maryland Public Policy Institute, transportation experts Wendell Cox and Ron Utt point out that Maryland is currently spending 54 percent of all available transportation funding on mass transit, which also received 95 percent of the $500 million increase in transportation spending between 2003 and 2012.
However, the authors note, the same share of Marylanders still get to work by transit today (9 percent) as in 1980, while less than half of the all the gas taxes the state already collects is spent on traffic relief for the other 91 percent. O'Malley's proposal is really a surreptitious way to force drivers to pay for the Red Line in Baltimore and the Purple Line connecting Montgomery and Prince George's counties. As mobility is directly linked to job opportunities, the governor's gas tax hike would disproportionately reduce job and recreational opportunities for 91 percent of Marylanders, especially those at the bottom end of the economic ladder.
The fact that this outrageous gas tax increase is even higher than the 15-cents per-gallon increase recommended by O'Malley's own blue ribbon commission has led to speculation that the governor is trying to burnish his progressive reputation while providing political cover for his fellow Democrats in Annapolis -- who will vote to raise the gas tax by a mere 15 cents. Voters should not fall for this cynical ploy. O'Malley and his allies in the General Assembly have repeatedly raided the Transportation Trust Fund for nontransportation projects, and trusting them again would be the height of folly. Legislators who want to demonstrate real courage will stand up to O'Malley and say "No way" to his gas tax hike.