Maryland, Virginia road plans rely on Congress to avoid higher gas taxes

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Correction: This article has been changed to reflect that gasoline prices in Maryland are expected to climb about 4 cents a gallon on July 1 and that the state's wholesale gas tax would rise to 5 percent without Internet sales taxes.

Maryland and Virginia are both counting on new taxes on Internet sales, being voted on by Congress, to keep prices lower at the gas pump.

The Marketplace Fairness Act is expected to sail through the U.S. Senate in a vote planned for May 6, but it faces an uncertain future in the House, where Republicans are wary about any perceived tax increases.

The two states passed plans to fund new transportation projects in the states' recent legislative sessions, and both rely on the passage of the Internet sales tax to collect additional revenue.

With or without the Internet taxes, Maryland motorists can expect gasoline prices to jump about 4 cents per gallon starting on July 1 as the state applies a 1 percent wholesale tax on gasoline sales. That would raise Thursday's average gas price of $3.51 per gallon to $3.60. The tax will increase an additional 1 percent on Jan. 1, 2015, and climb to a total of 3 percent by July 2015. If the Internet sales tax is signed into law, all revenue collected from the state's 6 percent sales tax on online purchases would go toward transportation starting in 2016. If the Internet sales tax isn't approved, Maryland's wholesale gas tax would jump to 5 percent starting in 2016.

"The goal of this was to limit the state sales tax applied to gasoline and come up with a new revenue source instead of continuing to apply the sales tax," said Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

In Virginia, motorists can expect to pay 6 to 7 cents less per gallon starting on July 1, when the state eliminates its 17.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax and applies a 3.5 percent wholesale tax on gasoline and 6 percent tax on diesel.

But the sales tax is rising from 5 percent to 5.3 percent, which jumps to 6 percent in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

Any additional tax revenue from online sales would hit state coffers in 2015, with 3 percent of the sales tax going toward transportation. If Congress fails to act on the Internet sales tax, the wholesale gas tax would jump from 3.5 percent to 5.1 percent.

The transportation plans passed by both states contain provisions that would allow them to collect the Internet sales tax without lawmakers taking additional action. Officials in both states say the Internet sales tax would raise about as much as a higher wholesale gas tax.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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