Cumberland Times-News

January 27, 2013

Another idea

Miller: Let counties have their own gasoline tax

Cumberland Times-News

— Former President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that read, “The Buck Stops Here!” — meaning that he couldn’t “pass the buck” to anyone else; the final responsibility was his.

In Maryland, the buck is passed in more ways than one — literally, as well as figuratively.

Gov. Martin O’Malley failed last year in his efforts to raise the state’s gasoline tax, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller now has proposed allowing counties to establish a gas tax of their own, up to 5 cents a gallon.

It would be tacked on to the state’s current gas tax of 23.5 cents per gallon.

The idea is to allow counties to raise money for local transportation projects — money they used to get from the state. Maryland’s counties and municipalities both have had their transportation funding cut drastically in recent years.

When Maryland instituted a major increase in its cigarette taxes, Marylanders began flocking to West Virginia to buy their cigarettes (and they’re still doing it). At least one market, in Ridgeley, put up a sign thanking then-Gov. Parris Glendening for the increased business.

If the Allegany County commissioners go for this idea and establish their own gas tax, could we expect to start seeing signs at West Virginia gas stations thanking them for the business?

And could we expect limits to be placed on the amount of gasoline that can legally be brought into Maryand? Such a limit is placed on cigarettes (two packs). How would a gas-importation limit be enforced? We have no idea, but things like this never seem to occur to those who pass such laws. The county probably would be responsible for that, too.

To their credit, our commissioners and other parts of our county government, including the board of education, have been diligent in finding ways to save money. So have our municipalities, and this has meant making some tough choices.

Instead of suggesting that its counties levy a gas tax, the state should find ways to save money and restore the lost transportation funds.

However, we don’t expect that to happen. Wherever else the buck may stop, it rarely stops in Annapolis.