Gov. Martin O’Malley should be recognized for doing something that very few politicians have been able to accomplish in the recent past. He has managed to unite both Left and Right in opposition to his proposal to increase the tax on gasoline. A September 2011 Gonzales Research poll found that 77 percent of Marylanders opposed increasing the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon.
Despite these results, the governor seems prepared to embrace the recommendation of his Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding to increase the gas tax by 15 cents per gallon over three years.
Those who favor increasing the gas tax argue that the money is needed to repair roads and bridges. But even the governor’s own Blue Ribbon Commission recognizes that this argument will be a tough sell. On page two of their report under the heading “Put the Trust Back in the Transportation Trust Fund,” the commission noted:
Maryland’s citizens, residents and businesses alike, expect that taxes and fees assessed for using the transportation system will be used to maintain and expand that system. . . Despite the intent to dedicate these revenues to transportation uses, large transfers from the Transportation Trust Fund to the General Fund have occurred over the years. While the majority of these transfers have been repaid, a significant amount, especially from the local government portion, approximately $997 million has not been replenished.
Nearly $1 billion collected to build and repair local roads and bridges has been transferred from the Transportation Trust Fund to the General Fund to pay for other items in the budget. This has allowed politicians of both parties to avoid making tough budget decisions especially in election years. Having spent the money elsewhere, Governor O’Malley wants us to pay again.
The gas tax disproportionately hurts the poor and working families who spend a larger percentage of their budgets to purchase gasoline. According to the Oil Price Information Service the average Maryland family spends nearly $300 per month to purchase gasoline, an increase of nearly 80 percent since 2008. By increasing the gas tax by 15 cents, the average family’s yearly gas tax bill will climb from $468.72 to $636.12.
"Big Oil" makes a profit of 6 to 9 cents per gallon of gasoline sold. In Maryland the government collects 42 cents in tax for each gallon sold, and the politicians want to increase the total tax to 57 cents per gallon. Who’s gouging who?
The point of the Occupy movement was to engage in high visibility activity (camping downtown) to draw attention to a cause. The tea party movement has started to spread the message that we are Taxed Enough Already. The two movements should be able to share common ground by standing against any attempt to raise taxes on gasoline. Let’s Occupy the Gas Tax because we’re Taxed Enough Already!
Occasionally, an arrogant politician will propose a measure that so defies common sense and thwarts the common good that engaged citizens on both the left and right will unite to defeat the measure. Or so we hope!
Let us know what you think. Are you willing to pay an additional 15 cents per gallon of gas? If not, what are you prepared to do about it?