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O'Malley proposes tying gas to sales tax, to alter traffic woes

Monday - 1/30/2012, 12:55pm  ET

OMalley640.jpg
(WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)

Ask the Governor

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks with WTOP's Mark Segraves

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(Live Blog below)

WASHINGTON - Many of Maryland's traffic woes would be alleviated by allowing a percentage tax on gasoline, the state's governor said Monday.

While speaking on WTOP's "Ask the Governor," Martin O'Malley said he would like to "phase out" the sales tax exemption on gas, which would allow a percentage tax on the fuel in additon to the existing 23-cent flat tax.

The current flat tax has not changed since the early 1990s when gasoline was about $1.08, the governor says, adding the regional arteries wouldn't be so clogged if the state had more to invest in transportation infrastructure.

"The best option...is to get away from the flat, per-gallon tax and instead move to a percentage," O'Malley said. The outdated scheme "is why we have one of the most congested metropolitan areas in the country."

That won't change on its own, he said. The gas tax is the state's primary means of funding transportation projects, and no other resources are as impactful.

"There is no one that's going to do this for us. Bridges are not like trees, that grow taller and stronger with age," he said.

China and India are not going to build our infrastructure for us, O'Malley said. "Our middle class was also built by our middle class."

The state would probably have an additional $4 billion if it had instituted this earlier, he said.

Maryland currently has a 6 percent sales tax. O'Malley's proposal would include a mechanism to alter that for gas if the price of fuel spikes.

Later on the program, O'Malley stated he would be open to raising the speed limit on the current InterCounty Connector, currently funneling the amount of traffic the state had projected, he said.

Learn more about the governor's take on the "download tax," county pension payments and tax brackets in our live blog:

10:56 a.m., speaking about the Republican primary:

When Gov. McDonnell and I get together we don't talk about national politics. We talk about public safety, transportation, and Metro.

I would say I hope his party has a long and robust discussion about the future of it.

A bird can only fly with two wings. We need both to be functioning to make our country soar.

10:53 a.m., speaking about state college tuition increases:

We went without a penny's increase for four years in a row, for a the last couple years have kept to 3 percent. Here's the problem with a permanent cap: It feeds the myth that there's a magic wand or an "easy button."

If you want to get what you pay for, it should cost what it costs. "It doesn't seem to be a healthy exercise."

I do think we should make college affordability a much higher priority.

10:51 a.m., speaking about allowing drunk driver victims to sue the establishment that served the alcohol:

"Absolutely."

10:47 a.m., speaking about his wife using the term "coward":

She has profusely apologized and clarified that she wasn't speaking about all who oppose gay marriage. "She feels very badly about it."

I believe justice produces justice, to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson.

10:44 a.m., speaking about gay marriage:

We thought it was going to pass last year. We need to persuade a half-dozen members of the House of Delegates that we can maintain religious freedom while also protecting marriage freedoms.

10:42 a.m., speaking about the digital projects "download tax":

This is nothing like the "high tech tax" a few years ago.

There are a lot of retailers who are hurt when there's no online sales tax, it's a windfall for the Amazon.com businesses of the world.

10:41 a.m., speaking about raising the speed limit on the ICC:

We are considering it, potentially to 65 mph. The limit is enforced not just by state police, but also the Maryland Transportation Authority, which built the ICC.

10:36 a.m., speaking about shifting the pension payments to the counties as well as the state:

(County leadership say that would be a "budget breaker." )

I met with a series of county executives. Every year for the last six years, whenever the budget comes up there are those who say Maryland should not have to pay for 100 percent of teacher retirement costs.

10:35 a.m., speaking about ICC ridership, and potentially raising the speed limit and lowering the fares:

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