Major gas tax hike sent to governor by Maryland Senate

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By Len Lazarick

Pipkin close on senate floor

Sen. E.J. Pipkin debates gas tax bill on Senate floor.

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.

The vote on HB1515 was 27-20, with eight Democrats joining all 12 Republicans opposing what Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin wanted to rename “The Gas Tax Job Killer Act of 2013.”

Instead the Democrats stuck with the title Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2013, saying that the estimated $2 billion it would raise over the next five years will help bolster Maryland’s depleted Transportation Trust Fund. The money would be used to build and maintain roads and transit systems, including three new major transit lines, if federal money comes through.

Lockbox passes

The Senate also passed a constitutional amendment, SB829, that would require a three-fifths vote in both houses to use transportation revenue for programs other than roads and transit. If the House of Delegates passes this constitutional change introduced by Senate President Mike Miller,

Madaleno on gas tax

Sen. Richard Madaleno during gas tax debate.

voters will be asked to approve the creation of a long-proposed “lockbox” designed to stop raids on the transportation fund.

“This is our legacy,” said Sen. Richard Madaleno, the Montgomery County Democrat who was floor leader for both bills that were voted out of the Budget and Taxation Committee Thursday afternoon. Madaleno was among the few Democrats who spoke in support of the bill that had been put together by Gov. Martin O’Malley, House Speaker Michael Busch and Miller.

With passage of the bill, O’Malley said, “we will support more than 57,000 jobs, ease traffic congestion, and build a 21st century transportation network.”

The bill was the third time during his six years as chief executive that O’Malley sought to raise the gasoline tax.

“I want to congratulate the governor,” Pipkin said sarcastically. “He’s become the $3 billion governor” with 35 tax and fee increases since he took office.

All Republican amendments defeated

Republicans proposed a series of 15 different amendments to rein in aspects of the bill.  One would have devoted all the new money to highways and another would have removed an inflationary clause tying future tax increases to the Consumer Price Index, a feature Pipkin called the worst aspect of the bill and Madaleno said was “innovative public policy.”

“We shouldn’t be putting taxes on cruise control,” Pipkin. “This is the most damaging to the poor.”

Reaction to the passage of the gas tax hike backed by major business groups and Democratic elected officials was predictable along ideological lines.

Reactions along ideological lines

“Maryland needs a first-class transportation network to attract jobs and remain competitive,” Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said in a statement.

“This is a major victory for everyone who is sick of traffic and a major boost for our economy,” according to a statement from the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance, which is chaired by former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan. The group mentioned road projects in Montgomery County that would move forward, although O’Malley has not made promises on specific highway projects.

“Approving an unaffordable 80% gas tax hike that will also increase the cost of food, clothing, and services, punishes Maryland families,” said Americans for Prosperity-Maryland Grassroots Director Nick Loffer.  “Sending revenue, jobs, and Maryland citizens out of state with the 5th highest gas tax rate in the nation will lead to more pain in this difficult economy.”

Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan said, “They choreographed the proposal’s original announcement, committee hearings and final votes to take place on late Fridays and in the evenings to avoid news coverage in the waning days of this legislative session.  This speaks volumes about just how unpopular more taxes are, and this may push Maryland to the tipping point. Taxpayers have finally had enough.”

About The Author

Meg Tully

Contributing Editor Meg Tully has been covering Maryland politics for more than five years. She has worked for The Frederick News-Post, where she reported during the General Assembly session in Annapolis. She has also worked for The (Hanover) Evening Sun and interned at Baltimore Magazine. Meg has won awards from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association for her state and county writing, and a Keystone Press Award for feature writing from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. She is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. If you have additional questions or comments contact Meg at:


  1. Neil Bergsman

    The transportation bill is a victory for responsible governing and a setback for the something-for-nothing crowd.

  2. Joseph Allen Jr


  3. TroopAbn Abn

    What a great governor and bunch of lemmings that we have following him! None of them care about the people of the state. Only looting the funds and trying to increase them. I hope all that voted for this are voted out the next election. And as for “O’Malley” alias “O’Money”, I have contacted many friends in the other states to let them know to pass the word to others and keep this “TAX AND SPEND” out of the White House. His roll model has already ruined the country and someone that only knows how to tax, will not bring the country back. O-Bama, O’Malley O’Shoot!

  4. Cindy Mullenax

    PERSONALLY, I don’t even CARE ANYMORE…My Family and I will be moving to TEXAS!!! O’Malley is DESTROYING Maryland and it’s Citizens. I will miss my my Home state, but WE ARE OUT OF HERE AND WE ARE TAKING OUR BUSINESS WITH US!!!

    • JGwen

      Will be working to join you! It will take some time, but Texas is the State with the Governor that puts Maryland’s Governor and most of our General Assembly to shame! It’s well worth the planning!

  5. hungrypirana

    Two points:

    First, SB829 (Constitutional Amendment) and HB1515 are inconsistent insofar as the conditions for diverting
    TTF funds. SB 829 requires the governor to declare a “fiscal emergency” AND obtain a three-fifths approval by
    the legislature before diverting funds. HB1515 allows an exception from three-fifths legislative approval if a “major catastrophe occurs” and the governor declares a state of emergency. Since the term major catastrophe is not defined, the governor could define it himself then declare a state of emergency (happens all the time) thereby circumventing the restriction. These are material differences and I can’t tell if they will be or were eliminated within the bill sent to O’Malley.

    Second, the law imposes taxes contingent on future federal appropriations for three new major transit lines. However, it doesn’t specify how taxes collected for the state’s share of these projects will be used if federal money doesn’t materialize. The state constitution provides for a “contingent fund” see Article III, Section 32: “…every Law shall distinctly specify the sum appropriated, and the object, to which it shall be applied; provided, that nothing herein contained, shall prevent the General Assembly from placing a contingent fund at the disposal of the Executive.” I wish the law would require equitable accounting for this money in the event these projects don’t materialize.

    • abby_adams

      Really, you are asking TOO many questions! Our august legislators have spoken. Give us the money & shut the h*ll up is their message to us all. We know what’s best for you. Don’t worry your pretty little heads abt contingency funds & states of emergency. They have it ALL under control.

  6. Mike G.

    Another pot of gold left at the end of the rainbow for O’Malley and his crooked cronies to throw away on pet projects. What will happen when taxpayers leave MD or just run out of money?

    • abby_adams

      Isn’t that what the pockets of the “New Americans” are for? You gotta pay to play in the sanctuary state of Maryland.

  7. Rose Blankenship

    And this is why I would never move back to my home state of Maryland………Delaware is so much better…………..Maryland’s cost of living has went up and the pay there is down………..bring job’s they say…………yah OKAY………they are saying let’s fk the poor more then we already are and the middle class can suck it up………..

  8. Garry Livesay

    will since o,money cry baby got his way again,he wont be getting any money cause we cant afford gas now P.O.S

  9. Mike21228

    Let’s keep voting for the same politicians and hope for different results!!!

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