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Montgomery County would get less than expected from gas tax plan

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Local,Maryland,Transportation,Rachel Baye

The 6 percent sales tax on gasoline proposed by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley would not give Montgomery County as much transportation money as county lawmakers had hoped.

The tax, phased in at 2 percent a year for three years, is expected to generate $613 million annually if approved, 80 percent of which would help replenish the state's depleted transportation trust fund. The other 20 percent would go to county and municipal governments to pay for local transportation projects.

Between this aid -- referred to as Local Transportation Infrastructure Aid -- and the aid local governments already receive from the transportation trust fund-- known as Highway User Revenue -- O'Malley has said he aims to restore the levels of local funding to their 2008 levels.

However, by the time the new sales tax reaches 6 percent in 2015, local transportation aid would be at 56 percent of what it was in 2008, Maryland Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Darrell Mobley said. After three years, Montgomery County municipal and county governments would receive 42 percent of their 2008 aid, with municipalities getting $5 million -- 75 percent of 2008 funds -- and the county getting $10 million -- 34 percent of 2008 funds.

If the price of gas rises by more than 15 percent in any of the three years the sales tax is set to increase, the governor's proposal would delay the following year's 2-percent increase to protect consumers, delaying extra local funds.

At a meeting with Mobley Monday, Montgomery County Council members expressed disappointment at the realization. The suburb has a litany of transportation projects aimed at reducing its crowded roads, and the county, facing a $135 million budget hole, could use the money.

"We're nowhere near where we were before," said Councilwoman Nancy Floreen, D-at large and a member of the council's Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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