Delegate Tony McConkey's Official Blog

Maryland Gas Tax Hurts The Poor The Hardest

Maryland Gas tax hits poor hardest, Originally published January 09, 2013 Frederick News By: Marta Mossburg

A favorite motto of Gov. Martin O’Malley and leaders in the state Democratic Party is that the rich must pay their “fair share.”
It was the philosophy behind hiking taxes last year on those making $100,000 or more and is the cornerstone of the progressive movement in the United States. Remember when then-candidate Barack Obama said in April 2008 that he was in favor of raising capital gains taxes “for purposes of fairness” even if it lowered revenue? Once elected, he has spent his presidency arguing for higher taxes on Americans making more than $250,000.

The problem is that hiking taxes on the wealthy will not reduce the national deficit. Neither will it solve Maryland’s chronic state deficit. That was caused and by years of spending more than the state receives in revenue — behavior elected officials are loathe to change.

Because Gov. Martin O’Malley and elected officials can’t pay for government even after 24 new taxes and fees in recent years, (according to Change Maryland) they must go after everyone.

The proposed hike in the state’s 23.5 cent per gallon gas tax being pushed by Gov. Martin O’Malley in the legislative session starting today is a case in point.

It is first and foremost a tax on the poor, who must spend a greater share of their income on gas than the rest of us. And because public transportation is so inconvenient to linking residents with their place of work in Maryland (and nationally), the poor have little ability to switch the way they commute.

Gov. O’Malley and those who do his bidding in the General Assembly will never admit the truth, however. They argue that raising the tax is no big deal. They repeat the line that the last time the tax was raised was 1992 and residents can’t indefinitely postpone an increase — as if higher taxes were inevitable consequence of existence, not a choice.

As Gov. O’Malley told The (Baltimore) Sun last March, “No–business would survive if the price of its product had to stay fixed at the level in 1992.”

But that argument is disingenuous. The reason the state needs transportation money is not because taxes aren’t high enough. It’s because legislators have stolen $1.1 billion from the Transportation Trust Fund to balance the budget and will not pay it back.

And if that isn’t enough, recent, repeat audits show the State Highway Administration is a bastion of waste and fraud and the source of tens of millions in misspent taxpayer dollars.

Before legislators consider hiking the tax they should instead replace what they looted. They should also hire outside auditors, as suggested by Christopher Summers of the Maryland Public Policy Institute, to conduct a forensic review of the Department of Transportation and other state agencies to see how much money could be reallocated where it is needed.

The state’s poorest residents should not be penalized for the bad financial decisions of state legislators and waste and fraud of state employees. But let this be a warning to everyone in Maryland that government will reach into the pockets of rich and poor alike to grab its “fair share.”

Marta H. Mossburg writes frequently about national affairs and about politics in Maryland. Reach her at www.martamossburg.com.

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