Maryland lawmaker proposes tax credit for those with long commutes, no access to transit

A Maryland lawmaker has introduced a plan aimed at appeasing commuters forced to drive to work because they lack access to public transit.

Charles County Sen. Arthur Ellis said the state should pay commuters back for those long, dreary mornings and afternoons where sitting in rush-hour traffic is inevitable.

Ellis is proposing a tax credit for any commuter who drives at least 40 miles round-trip to a full-time job every day, as long as they don’t live within 5 miles of a transit rail system such as MARC or Metro.

“It’s 10%” of the gas tax paid,” Ellis said. “Someone just driving around the corner wouldn’t be eligible. If they have a significant commute and cost, then they’re eligible for that.”

It’s no secret Ellis hasn’t been pleased with the amount of transportation funding that has made its way to the southern Maryland region, which he represents. And he’d definitely rather see money used to fund a light-rail project that would run from south of Waldorf up the Route 5 corridor, connecting residents to the Green Line.

“We want solutions,” said Ellis. “Until then, we need to let the governor know that he’s collecting a lot of tax money on the backs of southern Maryland citizens and citizens throughout Maryland who are stuck in traffic getting to work. Over $3-plus billion a year in gas tax dollars go into that transportation fund. So, where are the solutions?

“[Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has] been in office for almost six years now and traffic has gotten worse, because the economy is so much better now. The economy is booming. He boasts about how the economy is great,” Ellis added.

“That means more people are on the road getting to their jobs. And we pay more in taxes and we look at very little solutions. There are no transit projects in the pipeline. The Purple Line is under construction now, but looking out three, four, five years, absolutely no transit in the pipeline.”

The fiscal impact statement attached to the legislation says the state would give back over $350 million in gas tax revenue that it collects now. However, that’s based on the entire amount of revenue collected in gas taxes and put into the transportation trust fund last year.

Still, it might be less. Not everyone who fills up would be eligible to collect, and among those eligible, it’s unlikely they’d itemize their taxes and save their gas receipts until they filed their taxes for the next year.

However, those who did complete those tasks would get back about 3 cents per gallon of gas they bought the previous year.

The bill is still in committee, but Ellis is hoping other lawmakers whose constituents deal with comparable transportation difficulties will support it.

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