ANNAPOLIS -- A bill Sen. Richard Colburn, R-37-Mid-Shore, called a "top issues" for Gov. Martin O'Malley in the 2013 legislative session passed Friday in the Senate, the gas tax bill.
The bill, or the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2013, was pushed through the Senate on Friday by a 27-20 vote, with every senator from the Eastern Shore voting against the legislation.
The bill gradually phases in a wholesale tax per gallon of gas and ties the state's current 23.5 cents per gallon excise tax to inflation, indexing it with no cap.
Colburn said he introduced an amendment that would remove tying the excise tax to inflation, as he said that is what makes the passage of the bill "such a devastation to the Eastern Shore." It was rejected.
"It's going to be a detrimental blow on the economy," Colburn said.
All that's left for the bill now is O'Malley's signature.
The bill applies a 1 percent sales tax at the wholesale level on July 1, and increases to 2 percent on Jan. 1, 2015, Colburn said. If the U.S. Congress doesn't pass an Internet sales tax, then a 5 percent wholesale tax would go into effect by July 1, 2016.
Colburn said it will raise the state's gas tax rate by 86 percent from 23.5 cents per gallon to at least 43.8 cents and raises the diesel tax rate by 74 percent from 24.25 cents per gallon to at least 42.15 cents.
He said the rise is going to be bad for taxpayers, who soon will have to pay more in Maryland to get from one place to another, when surrounding states have lower gas prices, such as Virginia having prices almost 32 cents per gallon lower
Colburn, and many other rural-area Senators, said he feared that eventually much of the funds garnered by the bill will be used for transit projects like the proposed Red and Purple light rail lines and the Corridor Cities Transitway. That, along with an overwhelming amount of people on the Eastern Shore driving to work every day, is what makes the bill so bad for residents and businesses on the Eastern Shore, Colburn said.
One thing Colburn said put some more "trust" back into the Transportation Trust Fund was a "lockbox" amendment, which stated O'Malley could raid the fund only during a year when there is a budget crisis and only with a three-fifths majority vote by lawmakers.
Colburn said the fund, which O'Malley raided previously, never should have been raided anyway.
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