Cumberland Times-News

March 18, 2013

Unhappy news

Look for state’s gas taxes to soar in five years

Cumberland Times-News

— The Gallup Healthways Well-being Index lists Hawaii as the happiest state in the country — which should be no surprise — and Maryland is tied for 11th.

Maryland also is listed by the U.S. Census Bureau as being the richest state (even though western Maryland is factored in).

One place Maryland ranks in the middle of the pack is the amount of its gasoline tax — 27th (here, Hawaii is also No. 1) — but that will change drastically if Gov. Martin O’Malley’s transportation funding bill is passed as it now stands.

Within five years, Maryland’s per-gallon tax of 23.5 cents would rise to 42.5 cents.

Only New York, California, Hawaii and Connecticut would have higher gas taxes (assuming that other states don’t raise them even higher than Maryland does.)

Those four states are ranked among the top five most expensive states in which to live. Hawaii is No. 1 and Alaska (which has the lowest gas tax) is No. 2, most likely because of their distance from the continental United States. Maryland ranks eighth in that respect and, if the gas tax is raised according to plan, it might go even higher.

 Much of the revenue expected to be gained from this proposed gas tax hike would go to mass transit — which would be of no help to Maryland’s rural population.

Maryland spends only about a third of its transportation money on maintaining highways. Its counties and municipalities already bear much of the burden for road maintenance, and this has been made worse by a steady decrease in funding made available by the state for that purpose.

Some of our legislators have suggested that sales taxes be raised in areas where mass transit is most used, and we agree. Those who use Maryland’s mass transit should help pay for it, rather than the state’s motorists who rarely have the opportunity to take the light rail or subways.

That fell on deaf ears. When Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller proposed ways to raise more funding for transportation, House Republicans said the state needs better management — not higher taxes.

Miller replied, “These people are Neanderthals in terms of their thinking.”

If that’s the case, then consider us Neanderthals as well. We’d be in good company.