UPDATED (5:39 p.m.)—Maryland could raise $300 million for transportation projects under a plan proposed by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.
Miller's plan calls for a 3 percent tax on the wholesale price of gas. That tax would be in addition to the 23.5 cents per gallon drivers already pay in Maryland.
"Everybody is going to pay a gas tax," Miller said of his proposal.
The additional tax would raise up to $300 million in additional funds, Miller said.
The proposal would allow local jurisdictions to impose up to a 5 cents per gallon tax for local transportation projects.
Miller said the idea is to let counties with specific transportation needs assess a tax to pay for those needs.
"They would be able to meet the needs by the votes of those local county [governments]," Miller said.
The proposal will also likely contain a regional taxing authority and the possibility of leasing out the operation of the recently opened Inter-County Connector.
"We haven't fleshed out the regional transit aspect of it," Miller said. "Whether it's the Baltimore region or the Washington region or whether it's the Baltimore-Washington corridor because obviously those being the beneficiaries of rail are going to be paying a little bit more. They get the jobs. They get the economic development and the transit stations and they have the ridership."
The proposal falls short of the $800 million called for last year by a blue ribbon panel that reviewed transportation funding and needs in Maryland.
Over the last five years, local governments have seen state aid to local transportation projects slashed by as much as 90 percent. Baltimore County, which received $45 million from the state five years ago, now receives $3 million.
A plan last year to phase in an additional 15 cents on the gas tax over three years failed to pass the General Assembly. That plan would have raised an nearly $500 million annually once the tax was fully implemented.
A poll released earlier this week by Annapolis-based Gonzales Research found strong support for funding transportation projects but a majority surveyed said they did not support additional taxes for those projects.
In that poll, 94 percent of those surveyed believe it is important to maintain state roads and bridges. A vast majority of all groups surveyed, however, did not favor a gas tax increase to support those projects.
Only 26 percent of those surveyed said they support a 10-cent per gallon increase in the state gas tax compared to 73 percent in the same poll that said they oppose that tax.
Miller said some local leaders he's talked to expressed concern that his proposal "doesn't raise enough money."
Miller said those leaders told him "if you're going to be in for this, if you're going to do this, you need to make the juice worth the squeeze but it's a very hard sell. Any gas tax is a very hard sell."
Sen. E.J. Pipkin, Senate minority leader, said the state should re-examine spending and separate mass transit and roads projects.
"If they want them they can pay for them in some way, shape or form and leave the rest of us in the state who will never benefit from any of these mass transit projects out of the loop," Pipkin said.
"The amount of money being spent on those mass transit projects and other things is sky rocketing while road money is plummeting," he said.
Some legislators have suggested they could support a tax increase to pay for transportation projects if the money was put into a dedicated fund.
"There's really no such thing in Maryland as locking the money away. It sounds good, it's a great sales pitch, it's great marketing but at the end of the day if the governor wants the money and the legislature wants the money in Maryland they'll raid the trust fund. I think the people who say they'll support the gas tax if they can get a lock box are truly being misled because there is no such thing as a lock box in Maryland."