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Gas industry lobbyist briefly returns to his roots

Buried toward the end of Tuesday’s three-hour hearing on a multimillion dollar plan to raise money for transportation projects in Maryland was one opponent who may have had a leg up on the others.

Drew Cobbs, the executive director of the Maryland Petroleum Council, testified in the waning minutes of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee‘s hearing on House Bill 1515, and the longtime gas industry lobbyist had more to offer than how the bill would impact his interest group — Cobbs was a senior policy analyst for the Maryland Department of Transportation for 13 years.

Harkening back to those years, Cobbs told the Senate panel that indexing Maryland’s excise tax on gasoline wouldn’t be necessary if the legislature just increased the tax every five years, as was once fairly common until the legislature — under the administration of Gov. Parris N. Glendening — broke the streak in 1997. Maryland’s 23.5-cent gas tax hasn’t increased since 1992.

Cobbs also added that H.B. 1515 — the consensus agreement reached among Gov. Martin O’Malley, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. — just played catch-up and did little to address ongoing operating costs of transit.

“We have a significant wound that’s bleeding,” Cobbs told the committee. “But all we’re going to do is give a transfusion, not close the wound.”