The governor and legislative leaders will try to develop a plan to address state transportation funding, according to the president of the Maryland Senate.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach, who introduced a transportation funding proposal of his own last week, said he met Tuesday morning with Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to discuss the measure.
“He indicated he will be meeting with the [House of Delegates] speaker in terms of trying to develop a consensus bill” that could be considered by both chambers, Miller told reporters Tuesday.
Raquel Guillory, O’Malley spokeswoman, said that discussions on the matter were ongoing and that the governor was hopeful an agreement could be reached that he and the two presiding officers could stand behind.
No official meeting had been scheduled between O'Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis as of Tuesday, but the speaker was discussing the issue with his leadership team to determine where there was consensus among House members, said Busch spokeswoman Alexandra Hughes.
O’Malley did not include a proposal to address the state’s transportation funding needs in the legislative package he introduced last month, but the issue is widely considered to be a top priority for lawmakers this session.
Miller’s proposal included a 3 percent sales tax to be added to the wholesale price of gasoline, as well as another 5-cent-per-gallon tax — some or all of which could go to county projects — on top of the state's existing 23.5-cent-per-gallon gas tax.
Miller also proposed creating up to two regional transit authorities that would oversee the funding,construction and maintenance of projects such as the proposed Purple Line and Red Line light-rail systems in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore regions, respectively.
Miller said the governor seemed lukewarm to such transit authorities but remained opened to them and that O’Malley favored the use of an overall sales tax increase to fund transportation projects. Miller, however, said that idea was “probably a non-starter” because thesales tax has already been raised once on the governor’s watch, from 5 cents to 6 cents in 2007.
Last year, the governor offered two proposals for funding transportation — one that would phase in a 6 percent sales tax on gasoline and one that would raise the overall sales tax by one penny, but neither moved forward.
Miller, who has repeatedly called for O’Malley to take the lead on the transportation issue in recent weeks, said the meeting Tuesday was a sign of progress and that the Senate had pushed the governor closer to taking action.
“I don’t know that he feels that there’s that same support in the House,” Miller said. “I think he’s going to explore that opportunity.”