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Senate sets hearing for gas tax bill

Business leaders in Maryland support increasing the state's gas tax to improve congestion and create jobs for construction crews. (File Photo)

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee will hold a public hearing Tuesday for comprehensive legislation that would raise hundreds of millions of dollars for transportation projects.

The panel will also hold a hearing Tuesday afternoon for an ambitious plan to finance redevelopment of Baltimore schools. Some lawmakers say the bills have been tied together to garner support for increases in Maryland’s gas tax and transit fees in the city.

The 1 p.m. hearings were added to the committee’s schedule following a brief introduction of House Bill 1515 and House Bill 860 to the full Senate on Monday afternoon. The House passed the transportation legislation, which would increase the price of gas by about 4 cents this summer through a pair of tax increases, in a contentious, 76-63 vote Friday. The school construction plan passed 107-30.

Both bills have the support of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, and are expected to pass the Senate. But Republican lawmakers have vowed to speak out against the transportation plan, which would raise $3.4 billion over the next five years on the back of tax increases.

The House took just a week between its public hearing on the transportation bill and final passage, as the chamber raced toward a deadline to send bills to the Senate. Less than two weeks remain in the legislature’s regular 90-day session.