Martin O'Malley has acknowledged all year that his push for a higher gasoline tax in Maryland would be a tough sell. But the Democratic governor may not have anticipated that gas prices would rise precipitously across his state and the nation just as he was hoping to persuade lawmakers to raise the levy.
O'Malley testified before legislators on Wednesday (March 14) in favor of the proposal he has been pushing all year: a plan to impose the state sales tax on gas to raise money for infrastructure projects. As Stateline noted in February, the plan is different from the way most other states tax gasoline in that state revenues would go up or down depending on the price of the product. These days, that may be a good idea for the state, but it isn't a popular idea with consumers — or many of their elected representatives.
The Washington Post reports that O'Malley's testimony didn't appear to change many minds in the legislature, where the governor's gas tax increase "has since January remained the most unpopular of at least a half-dozen tax and fee hikes he proposed for the budget year beginning in July." The paper notes that gas prices have surged by more than 40 cents per gallon across Maryland since January, when O'Malley first introduced his proposal.
Gas prices have become a point of national political debate, too. Republican presidential candidates routinely criticize President Obama for the surge in prices and one GOP candidate, Newt Gingrich, has vowed to bring costs down to $2.50 a gallon if he is elected president. The current national average is $3.81 a gallon.