ANNAPOLIS -- The leader of Maryland's Senate told reporters Wednesday that he expects a bill that would provide much-needed revenue for transportation projects to pass his chamber as early as this week.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's and Calvert counties, said his chamber would take up amendments to the bill this week and could even pass it.
"I hope that we can move the bill as rapidly as possible," Miller said, adding he expectes the Senate to make "modest changes" that the House would approve of without the need for a conference committee to hammer out significant differences.
The bill, which passed the House last week, would raise money for the near-bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund by placing a 1 percent wholesale tax on gasoline starting July 1, increasing the cost at the pump by about 4 cents per gallon.
That wholesale tax would increase to 2 percent in 2015, and to 3 percent in 2015, meaning motorists would pay 12 cents more per gallon over today's prices.
The legislation also relies on money from Congress passing a proposal to require Internet retailers collect state sales tax. If Congress fails to pass that, Maryland's wholesale gas tax would increase to 4 percent on Jan. 1, 2016, and 5 percent on July 1, 2016. That means motorists would pay 19 cents more per gallon at the pump over today's prices.
The bill also would index the state's flat 23.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax to inflation.
The package is expected to raise more than $4 billion for transportation projects by 2019. That money is badly needed for projects like the Purple and Red light rail lines in Washington and Baltimore, respectively, and the Corridor Cities Transitway rapid bus system along Interstate 270.
The Transportation Trust Fund is slated to go bankrupt in 2018 and only has money to maintain current infrastructure.