Republicans Offer Common Sense Amendments to Bill 1515

March 29, 2013

TransportationSENATE REPUBLICANS PROPOSE COMMON-SENSE TRANSPORTATION AMENDMENTS TO HOUSE BILL 1515  Dems Reject All GOP Amendments as Senate Rams through Gov. O’Malley’s 87% Gas Tax Hike

In an almost five-hour long session on Good Friday, Maryland Senate Republicans proposed, and Senate Democrats rejected, over a dozen amendments to Governor O’Malley’s gas tax bill that would have implemented common-sense transportation solutions to help fix the state’s road woes.

In attacking the most offensive provision of the bill, which ties Maryland’s gas tax to inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index, Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin (R – Cecil) argued “There’s something fundamentally flawed with an indexed gas tax compounding annually. Indeed, the Governor will have an annual gas tax increase without a vote of the legislature.”

Sen. Ed Reilly (R – Anne Arundel) backed up this amendment by pointing out that the automatic and eternal tax increases mandated by the CPI language “provide an opportunity for our legislators to side step our constitutional duty to review and approve tax increases in the future.”

Members of the Senate Republican Caucus also fought for more transparency in the implementation of this new gas tax by proposing various amendments that would have required, among other things, a sticker on each gas pump detailing the per gallon tax obligation, a line item showing the tax paid on every receipt for the purchase of gas, or the publishing of all tax increases on the state comptroller’s website and in general circulation newspapers.

Even if these transparency amendments were to pass, Sen. David Brinkley (R – Frederick) admitted, “This bill will encourage consumers to buy their products outside the state. Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, and West Virginia will be the beneficiaries of Maryland’s incessant, tax-increase appetite.”

Featured among other Republicans’ amendments to House Bill 1515 was a commitment to real and substantial investment in the state’s roads and bridges. Amendments by Sens. Barry Glassman (R – Harford) and Joe Getty (R – Carroll), respectively, would have increased the transportation funds distributed to local governments as the gas tax increases and required at least 50% of the new revenue generated to be used for highway purposes.

Sen. Getty accused the governor and the General Assembly of turning to “the most regressive taxes that hurt the poor and the middle class, who continue to suffer from Maryland’s poor economic conditions and declining business climate,” without even having the courage to dedicate a single dime of the new revenue to the things that matter most to those individuals: the state’s failing roads and bridges.

A final point of focus for Republican objections to the governor’s gas tax bill was the fact that nothing would, despite his contentions to the contrary, Governor O’Malley’s focus seems like it will always remain on mass transit. That is why Sen. Pipkin introduced an amendment that would create separate taxing authorities for the Red Line and the Purple Line that would have the power to tax individuals living in those regions to help finance the construction and operation of those major upcoming transit projects.

Sen. Pipkin said, “The 8% of Maryland commuters who use transit pay only 28% of the cost of the system. By raising the gas tax like this, we’re not fixing the problem—we’re only feeding it.”

Senators who voted against the gas tax:
John Astle (D), David Brinkley (R), Jim Brochin (D), Richard Colburn (R), Ed DeGrange (D), Roy Dyson (D), George Edwards (R), Joe Getty (R), Barry Glassman (R), Nancy Jacobs (R), J.B. Jennings (R), Delores Kelley (D), Allan Kittleman (R), Kathy Klausmeier (D), Jim Mathias (D), E.J. Pipkin (R), Ed Reilly (R), Christopher Shank (R), Bryan Simonaire (R) and Norman Stone (D). No Republicans voted for the bill. The bill passed 27-20.

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