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Maryland, Virginia part ways on higher gas taxes

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Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Transportation,Taylor Holland,Metro and Traffic

Steep gas prices are already draining the wallets of D.C. commuters, but Maryland lawmakers may still drive the price up further by raising taxes on gas to pay for roads.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's and Calvert counties, last week proposed levying a 3 percent sales tax on gas statewide while giving specific counties the power to raise additional funds by increasing the current 23.5-cent-per-gallon gas tax by up to 5 percent.

"I think we'll be able to get it through," said Senate Majority Whip Ulysses Currie, D-Prince George's, a co-sponsor of the measure. "It will be somewhat tough."

Should Maryland lawmakers pass the hike before the end of session in April, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend said the state would have some of the most expensive gas in the region.

"The timing couldn't be worse," Townsend said. "Consumers are upset and agitated by gas prices, and as you talk about increasing it even more, they're going to blame the politicians."

Across the Potomac, Virginia legislators trying to raise more money for roads rejected efforts to raise the gas tax. Instead, they want to eliminate the state's 17.5-cent-per-gallon gas tax and replace it with a 3.5 percent tax on wholesale gas sales. They also are considering increasing the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5.3 percent to raise more money.

Gov. Bob McDonnell said lawmakers realized the "inescapable fiscal reality that the gas tax is no longer a dependable, long-term sustainable source of transportation revenue" and that the switch will save motorists as much as 6 cents per gallon at the pump.

Staff Writer Andy Brownfield contributed to this report.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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