Cumberland Times-News

Local News

January 27, 2013

Tax changes in Maryland, Virginia could affect where commuters buy their gasoline

ANNAPOLIS — Marcellus Davis, who drives from Waldorf to his job as a facilities manager in Arlington, Va., every day, buys his gas near his Maryland home.

“I wouldn’t say it’s cheaper, but it’s probably about the same,” Davis said, of the difference in gas prices between Maryland and Virginia.

But Virginia is considering repealing its 17.5-cent tax, while Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr. wants to increase Maryland’s 23.5-cent tax, which may make some interstate commuters decide to fill up in Virginia instead of Maryland.

Davis said he’d buy his gas in Virginia if a gas tax increase in Maryland or the proposed repeal in Virginia occurred.

“Look at how much money I spend on my commute. It’s $130 or so a week,” Davis said.

The current average cost of gas in Maryland is $3.38 per gallon, while Virginia’s is $3.25, according to the American Automobile Association’s daily fuel gauge report.

Davis is one of more than 132,000 Maryland residents who commutes to a job in Virginia, according to a report compiled from 2010 Census data created by the Maryland State Data Center.

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell proposed two weeks ago that the state’s gasoline tax be repealed. Last week, Miller said he plans to introduce legislation by Monday that would raise the gas tax in Maryland.

The increase, part of a multi-pronged approach, would go toward funding Maryland’s Transportation Trust Fund.

But an increase in the gas tax is not popular with Maryland residents. Even though 94 percent of Marylanders think it is important to maintain and improve the state’s transportation system, 73 percent are against a gas tax increase of 10 cents, according to a poll released by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies, Inc.

An increase in the tax is also unpopular with some gas station owners.

Huong Ngo, who has owned Seabrook Citgo in Lanham for 23 years, doubts that Virginia repealing its gas tax would have much of an effect on where commuters buy their gas. However, he is worried about a gas tax increase in Maryland.

“It will cause the business to drop and gas is already too expensive,” Ngo said. Ngo is a member of the Washington, D.C., Maryland, Delaware Service Station and Auto Repair Association and has helped petition against the gas tax before.

The association’s Director of Member Relations Kirk McCauley is also concerned about an increase in the tax.

“It would be a disaster for Maryland gas stations,” McCauley said.

“Even Maryland thinking about raising their tax doesn’t make sense when border states are cheaper.”

There is no question in Miller’s mind that a gas tax hike in Maryland, or a repeal of the gas tax in Virginia, would affect where Maryland to Virginia commuters buy their gas.

“(Maryland residents) already go there for their cigarettes and guns,” Miller said.

But he supports an increase.

“We depend on revenue from the gas tax,” Miller said.

Maryland’s gas tax goes toward paying for the maintenance of roads and infrastructure, as well as the building of new roads.

Miller outlined his multifaceted approach to fixing the problem of transportation funding last week, saying he would consider leasing or selling the Intercounty Connector, making taxes on Metrorail regional and raising the state’s wholesale gas tax.

“It would be 3 cents and raise approximately $300 million,” Miller said.

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