A rallying atmosphere is expected at the purple-drenched State House Friday as lawmakers don Ravens gear to support the hometown team in its conference championship match up against the New England Patriots Sunday afternoon.
Gov. Martin O’Malley has declared “Purple Friday,” allowing state employees to dress in Ravens gear. The State House dome and Government House, the governor’s residence, have been spotlighted in purple this week, though it’s pretty pale.
The governor’s office said O’Malley tweeted Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to remind him of the lobsters he sent to settle the losing bet after the Ravens beat the Patriots in 2010.
Business, labor rally for gas tax hike
About 150 representatives of business and labor groups rallied in Lawyer’s Mall at the State House Thursday in support of increasing the gasoline tax to pay for new highway and transit projects.
Gov. Martin O’Malley said Wednesday that he would make an announcement about his stand on transportation taxes in the near future. Senate President Mike Miller supports an increase, and has said he has the votes in the Senate to pass one. House Speaker Michael Busch is not so sure of support among the delegates.
“They all seem to run for cover when we try to get the message to them,” said Jim Russ, president of the Maryland Transportation Builders and Materials Association.
A gas tax hike is “a jobs bill,” Russ said, repeating the position O’Malley and legislative leaders have taken. Russ said there is 20-30% unemployment rate among transportation construction workers. “What’s been carrying us is the Intercounty Connector,” and that project is mostly finished.
The Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Distributor’s Association released a poll conducted last week that showed Marylanders overwhelmingly oppose a 10-cent per gallon gas tax hike. The Gonzales Research poll found 76% oppose the increase, with 62% strongly opposed.
According to the poll, a majority of voters from all regions, all parties, all races and both genders oppose the tax hike.
“Constituents are telling Maryland lawmakers that the well is dry,” said Peter Horrigan, president of the petroleum distributors. “Any costs added to the gas tax will be passed directly on to consumers both at the pump and in the cost of all goods that Marylanders purchase.”
Don Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee and a long-time proponent of increased transportation funding, said gas taxes are “never going to be polling well.” But “mobility is the cornerstone of economic growth” and a key to Maryland’s continued prosperity.
“There is no good time to raise the gas tax,” Fry said. His coalition of business and labor groups also support legislation to prevent the transportation trust fund from being used for other programs.
Kathy Snyder, president of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, said short poll questions can’t convey the lack of money to fix roads and potholes.
Lack of funding is making road conditions worse, and it is becoming a workforce issue as commuting time lengthens, she said.
“If we want things to get better we have to pay for it,” Snyder said.
Two congressmen and legislators rally against corporate campaign clout
Democratic U.S. Reps. Chris Van Hollen and John Sarbanes rallied on Thursday with state legislators in Annapolis who signed a letter supporting a U.S. constitutional amendment restricting corporate funding of campaign advertising. The amendment would overturn the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, eliminating restrictions on corporate campaign contributions because the companies have free speech rights as a person.
The best laugh line came from rally leader Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, repeating a good quip: “I’ll believe corporations are persons when Texas executes one of them.” (Raskin opposes the death penalty.)
Here’s a podcast about the rally by Duane Keenan for MarylandReporter.com. He talks to Susan Wichmann, Executive Director of Common Cause of Maryland and Mark Hays, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen’s “Democracy is for People” Campaign.