ANNAPOLIS -- Maryland House Democrats will craft their own plan to find badly needed funding for state transportation projects, in response to one put forth by the head of Maryland's Senate earlier this month.
The Baltimore Sun is reporting that House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel County, said his chamber will consider various tax options to raise $600 million annually for the Transportation Trust Fund. That fund -- which pays for the state's transportation construction and maintenance and has no money for new projects -- will go bankrupt in 2018 without new revenue.
Though Gov. Martin O'Malley has publicly called for a solution to transportation underfunding, House Democrats have remained inactive for the first half of Maryland's 90-day session. It will be difficult for any funding proposal to pass the House, as there is the perception among rural Republicans that their constituents would be paying higher taxes for mass transit projects such as the Red and Purple light rail lines that they will never use.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's and Calvert counties, introduced a plan earlier this month to raise revenue for transportation.
Miller's plan includes a 3 percent sales tax on gasoline, would allow counties to raise the flat 23.5 cent-per-gallon gas tax by up to 5 cents and create regional authorities in Baltimore and the D.C. suburbs that could raise property taxes an unspecified amount.
The sales tax would raise an estimated $300 million per year, but it's not clear how much any county gas tax or property tax would bring in.
Experts agree that Maryland needs at least an additional $600 million each year to pay for all transportation projects.
Political insiders say Virginia's weekend passage of a $880 million transportation funding package will increase the likelihood that Maryland lawmakers will approve a transportation-funding plan before the April 8 close of the General Assembly session.