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Prince George's can't fix problems without gas tax

Friday - 3/16/2012, 12:22pm  ET

RushernBaker640.jpg
(WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)

WASHINGTON - The chief executive of Prince George's County said Friday that serious local issues can't be fixed unless the government considers additional taxes.

The gas tax has not been raised since 1992, County Executive Rushern Baker said on WTOP's "Ask the Executive" program on Friday, offering his support for increasing that tax. The county must repair its roads and make other infrastructure improvements to attract and keep businesses, he says.

"Unless I have money, these problems can't be fixed," Baker says. "We have to have the resources to do that."

During the program, Baker also discussed convincing the Redskins not to break their lease in the county, and courting the FBI to establish a facility there.

The county executive stressed a difference between the gas tax and other potential sources of revenue, such as a bag tax and speed camera enforcement -- which the The Washington Post reported brought in twice the expected revenue. Those are more about changing behavior, Baker says.

Area residents wouldn't have to pay 5 cents per bag by bringing their own, he says. The county is also proposing a 10-cent return for those who do. Drivers can also avoid paying for tickets by not speeding, he says.

"The message is we want you to be safe," says Baker. "You wouldn't be spending the money if you drive within the law."

Currently, there are no financial penalties for not paying speeding tickets on time. The county executive says he would like to change that.

For more on Baker's plans to recover underwater mortgages and foreclosures, the new jobs included in his budget and the future of gambling in the county, check out our live blog:

10:57 a.m., speaking about no pay raise for county employees:

We wanted to send a message that we're happy with their work. They will get a one-time bonus we're working on now. We've indicated to the school system we'd like to see them get raises.

10:56 a.m., speaking about the Redskins training facility:

I have a great working relationship with them and the D.C. mayor. We have no indication they're going to violate their lease with us.

10:55 a.m., speaking about Internet gambling:

I haven't really thought about that. We're going to provide a physical place to go, so D.C. may not have to worry about that.

10:54 a.m., speaking about the FBI looking for a new headquarters:

We're badgering our federal counterparts to get them to come to Prince George's. We're preparing the county at the sites we think will be attractive, so we're improving infrastructure there.

They have not given us any timeline.

10:51 a.m., speaking about table-game gambling:

The idea is to bring in a high-end resort to Prince George's at National Harbor. We think that could bring in $40-$50 million to the county.

That would give $20 million to education and public safety, and millions toward housing stabilization.

Not just gambling, but live shows, high-end restaurants and retailers.

You can't do it at Rosecroft because you can't guarantee it would outlive if someone opened up a slot machine facility in Virginia or D.C. This project would be different because it's more than just gambling.

10:40 a.m., speaking about bag tax and gas tax:

The idea if you bring your bag to the grocery store, it is a 10-cent return to you, depending on how many bags you use. That is a part of the proposal we're sending to Annapolis.

The idea is not so much to raise revenue, the idea is to get people to behave differently.

The bag fee is about cleaning up the environment. If we don't do that, we're putting more responsibility on agencies like public works.

The gas tax is different. We must have roads fixed. We must bring businesses here, and we have to have resources to do that. We have not raised the gas tax since 1992.

"Unless I have money, these problems can't be fixed."

10:37 a.m., speaking about increasing firefighter staff:

Our planned increases (see below) are not nearly enough.

10:35 a.m., speaking about councilmembers having county-issued cars:

There is an option given to councilmembers that they can lease, but they have to pay toward the vehicles they use. That's because of the places they go and the work they do on behalf of their constituents.

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