Simply put, Marvin Mandel — who was laid to rest last week at age 95 — ranks as the greatest and most effective Maryland governor of the 20th century. Only Gov. Albert C. Ritchie (1920-35) comes close to matching Mandel as a government reformer. But Mandel was far more ambitious in his efforts to improve society, expand the reach of government and anticipate future trends.
Ratings on environmental policy for Maryland legislators slipped last year, despite passage of a major offshore wind energy bill championed by Gov. Martin O’Malley.
The Maryland League of Conservation Voters released its 2013 scorecard Monday, giving lawmakers an average score of 64% in the House of Delegates and 55% in the Senate. Those scores are down slightly from last year’s 69% in the House and 63% in the Senate.
Just 25 days after it was introduced, the Maryland Senate enacted the first gas tax hike in 21 years, sending the governor a 10 to 12 cent per gallon increase by 2015. The bill calls for the tax to go even higher — it will rise automatically in future years.
A controversial gas tax hike already passed by the House of Delegates was approved by a Senate committee Thursday, moving it one step closer to becoming law. The committee also approved a constitutional amendment requiring three-fifths votes in both houses to use transportation money for other purposes, a so-called lockbox.
The intensely debated gas tax hike electrified the house floor on Friday moving many delegates to speak who “hadn’t planned on standing up.” The two hour debate, culminated in a hotly disputed vote, ultimately passing 76 votes to 63.
HB 1515 raises Maryland’s gas tax by at least 10 cents per gallon or more over the next two years, indexing it to inflation, with aims to fund mass transit projects and highway improvements.
Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed gasoline tax hike that was late arriving for this year’s General Assembly session is now clearly on a fast track for passage. The House of Delegates gave it preliminary approval Wednesday night — just five days after its first hearing. The Democrat-dominated House easily beat back Republican attempts to modify the bill, HB1515, indicating more than enough Democrats are on board to pass it as early as Thursday.
Dozens of people gathered outside the State House Friday to protest a proposed hike on the gas tax. Wielding paper stop signs that said “Stop the Gas Tax,” the group rallied around their spokesman, Nick Loffer, a grassroots director for Americans for Prosperity. “We’re talking about a 60% gas tax hike which, if enacted, will give us the fifth highest gas tax in the country,” said Loffer.
A tax-weary legislature has no stomach to raise needed transportation revenues. Everybody agrees that a good transportation network of roads, highways, bridges and mass transit are an essential underpinning of the Maryland economy. But there’s no agreement on how to pay for this transportation system in the 21st century.