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Gas tax hike on 'hold'

February 02, 1999

Realizing that they need to prove that there's a need for more transportation funding in the middle of a booming state economy, Maryland leaders, including Gov. Parris Glendening, will delay a proposal to hike the state's gasoline tax for at least a year. It's a move the makes sense, if state officials want to raise the level of debate on this issue.

So far we've heard three positions. The first is that there's no need for any additional money, despite a growing list of road and transportation projects. The second is that there is a need for additional cash, but that rural lawmakers fear that most of it will be sucked up by the metropolitan area transit systems, which they say don't benefit their constituents.

The third view: Raise the state's sales tax and devote that cash to mass transit, while leaving the gasoline tax to fund road and bridge improvements.

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Whichever position appeals to you, you'll get a chance to express it sometime in the next year, when a state transportation advisory panel holds a series of public hearings to get citizen input on local areas' transportation needs.

Once those are completed, the results will be communicated to local members of the General Assembly, who should then have enough information (and enough political cover) to back a hike of some sort.

We've looked at the list of projects - the proposal to widen Interstate 81 to six lanes through Maryland alone would cost $95.3 million - and believe that some additional revenue is in order.

We also believe that the "us versus them" approach to roads and mass transit is mistaken, and that the state needs a mix of both to fulfill its transportation needs. We hope that citizens and lawmakers and citizens alike will approach the upcoming hearings with open minds about Maryland and local government's future needs.

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