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O’Malley highlights transportation projects

Gov. Martin O’Malley outlined his transportation funding initiative Monday, and Tuesday he began tying his proposal to specific road, bridge and transit projects around the state.

Throughout the day, administration officials revealed through email blasts — every half hour, starting at noon — and posts on the governor’s blog “projects that could be impacted” in all 24 local jurisdictions.

They also mounted posters showing schematics, renderings and photos of the projects between the galleries above the Senate and House of Delegates, in the hallway through which dignitaries will travel on their way to Wednesday’s State of the State address.

The projects include the Red Line in Baltimore City, development around the Martin State MARC station in Baltimore County, widening Route 32 in Carroll, a MARC line extension through Cecil and improvements to an intersection in Anne Arundel.

The promise of funding for local projects will likely be key to winning votes for O’Malley’s proposal.

For the last two years, House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said the support of local political leaders in vote-rich Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City will be critical.

“If you believe they’re going to vote for it and not expect to get projects, you still believe in Santa Claus,” the speaker told a Maryland Economic Development Association conference earlier this month. “That’s the way it works.”

Senate President Mike Miller said Tuesday the sales tax on gasoline will be “a tough sell.”

The proposal would phase in over three years, adding about 6 cents to a gallon of gas a year, based on Tuesday’s statewide average of $3.50.

“I told him (the governor) it would be a full-time effort between now and April to get his agenda passed,” said Miller.

“He’s going to have to meet with the delegations and explain why this is the best solution and why we need to move forward,” Miller said. “It’s his proposal, he’s the governor of the state and he needs to make his case to the elected officials. He’s not going to be able to convince the electorate why it’s the best thing for them. But it’s the responsibility of elected leaders to lead.”


More Miller on the gas tax:

“It’s going to be a tough sell, no matter what. The public says they can’t afford it and would rather do without it, but there’s never a good time. There’s always going to be another storm in the Gulf. There’s always going to be another war in the Middle East. There’s always going to be a presidential veto of a Keystone Pipeline.”

“We’ve got a Red Line and a Purple Line that need to be built, two major beltways that need repairs. We need revenues in the Transportation Trust Fund sooner rather than later. The sooner the members of the Senate and the House of Delegates realize they’re going to have to spend some political capital to make that happen, the better off we’ll be.”

The Senate president also said the state needs to expand the sales tax further to include services. That idea has rankled business interests in Annapolis, who worry such an expansion would raise the cost of many business-to-business transactions.

“We’ve already maxed out in terms of the rate,” Miller said. “We need expand the sales tax. We’re 37th out of 50 states in terms of usage of the sales tax. In the future, we need to make it apply to services rather than heighten the rate.”