House approves gas tax hike of 10 cents per gallon or more

House approves gas tax hike of 10 cents per gallon or more

Del. Ben Barnes argues for increasing gas tax.

By Beccas Heller

Tally board voteThe 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 (See blog), 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.

Republican delegates united against the bill, passionately citing constituents who had contacted them with concerns about their financial future impacted by a tax hike and denouncing it as “political terrorism.”

“You know it’s time to stop lying to the public, letting them believe that somehow their opinion matters,” said Del. Don Dwyer, R-Anne Arundel County. “Because we all know that what we’re going to do is that this bill is going to pass — more than likely — and then we’re going to go home and pretend that we fought like hell against it.”

Criticism, support ran wide and deep

Criticism for the bill ran wide and deep — from economic doubts to questions of accountability and concern for the poor. Arguments for the increase in transportation funding suggested that the bill would provide solutions — not problems — in these areas.

The theme of “advocating for the poor” was taken up by both sides of the body, with some arguing that the tax would unfairly disenfranchise the poor and others arguing that it would give low-income communities access to the better, more reliable public transportation.

“I know something about working families and single moms — I was raised by one,” said Del. Ben Barnes, D-Prince George’s. “I remember her being stuck in traffic while I was stuck in childcare. And I remember when she got that job in D.C. — and what a godsend it was to her to be able take mass transit into work.”

Del. Ben Barnes argues for increasing gas tax.

Del. Ben Barnes argues for increasing gas tax.

Barnes and several others emphasized the role that mass transit played in empowering low-income communities, giving the poor access to do the same things as other people, regardless of their ability to own a car.

Increase would affect more than gasoline prices

On the other side, opponents of the bill asserted that the tax increase would be reflected, not just at the gas pump, but on the shelves of grocery stores and other businesses, making basic goods more expensive for families already struggling financially.

Many critics of the bill cited its lack of accountability.

“In my opinion a transportation bill, should protect the Transportation Trust Fund, it should align it with the needs of Marylanders, and it should restore funding that is needed to build the infrastructure that our citizens want and need,” said Del. Herb McMillan, R-Anne Arundel. “But this doesn’t do that. It doesn’t have a lock box…it’s more like a wet paper bag that a hamster could bust out of.”

Other critics of the bill accused Gov.Martin O’Malley of gravely mismanaging the budget in the past, leading to a deficit in the transportation fund, and framed the bill as O’Malley’s way of making up for his mistakes — at the cost of the taxpayers.

Others stood firmly in support of the bill, citing the desperate need for improvement in Maryland’s infrastructure.

Poor maintenance has led to bridge collapses elsewhere

Del. Frank Turner, the Democratic floor leader of the bill as vice-chair of the Ways and Means Committee, warned of the dangers of being “reactive” as opposed to “proactive.” He pointed to the poor state of many of Maryland’s bridges and cited catastrophes in other states that had resulted from poor upkeep of bridges.

“HB 1515 will do some good…but it will do far greater damage,” said Del. Nick Kipke, R-Anne Arundel. “It is irresponsible to pass HB 1515 because it will depress our economy, it will depress our citizens, and it will throw salt into the wound of our economic situation.”

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Citizen

    The state transportation fund needs more money because O’Malley spent it on other things.

  2. Dems are punks

    Don’t cry yes Delegates if you’re supporters cost of living goes up. Blame yourselves not the Republicans.

  3. Dems are punks

    Annapolis is the only State Capital that has no access to the outside world accept by automobiles. You lawmakers who voted yes ought to be voted out forever. So screw you all especially that punk Barnes and punk Mizeur. Hope you all be voted out.

    • Dale McNamee

      Not only that, all of the Delegates & Senators get their gas money “comped” for travelling from their homes to Annapolis and back… So much for public servants !

  4. Barnes is a tyrant

    Remember voters who voted to starve you and your family in 2014 to have enough to eat. You will pay between $2.00 and $6.00 more for everything including eating out. Lets hope Delegate Barnes drops dead.

  5. abby_adams

    Democrats in the MD legislature care very litte abt the consequences hiking the gas tax will have on the average family. So what if the price at the pump filters into every aspect of our consumer driven economy? We’re going to fix the roads & built more mass transit & it will really help MD’s economy, or so they keep reminding us. But this latest tax grap isn’t set in stone just YET. We can still call our State Senators, Mike Miller & our esteemed “a fee is a tax” Gov. to voice our objections & concerns.

    • Dale McNamee

      Great post, Abby !
      Another reason that the Democrats in the Legislature don’t worry about consequences is the fact that they get re-elected time and time again… The Democrats portray themselves as friends of the middle class, the working man, the poor…This tax increase will hurt those very people. With “friends like these…”
      As for me, I will drive only when necessary ( no pleasure driving,vacationing,etc. ), buy only the necessities, no eating out,no movies ,concerts ,etc. I wish others would do the same… Show Annapolis what effects their choices have led to…
      But, I fear as Memorial Day comes, the Maryland lemmings will waste expensive gas sitting in traffic to ” reach the beach ” and these people are the ones who elect and re-elect the morons to the Legislature…
      BTW, the gas tax will be indexed to inflation ( which is coming ) and the Highway Trust Fund will still get raided…

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