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Morning Read: O'Malley To Pitch Unpopular Gas Tax In House And Senate

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Gov. Martin O’Malley will appear in front of House and Senate committees today to make a personal pitch for his widely unpopular proposal to increase gas tax.

    The tax is expected to generate $613 million-a-year and would be used to fund road and transportation projects.

    O’Malley knows that the gas tax won’t be an easy sell, according to The Baltimore Sun. With gas prices on the rise, many people don’t see why more gas taxes are needed and are wary of O’Malley increasing the gas tax when his budget also calls for increased income taxes.

    Proponents of the tax argue that gas tax in Maryland hasn’t been raised since 1992 when the price of gas was $1.08 a gallon. The tax continues to be at 23.5 cents a gallon, or about 6 percent, and, according to The Sun, the revenue it brings has lost two-thirds of its value.

    O’Malley’s proposal would raise the tax about 18-21 cents over three years. He estimates that the construction projects the tax would fund would create nearly 20,000 jobs.

    Maryland has some of the most congested roads in the country and the longest average daily commute.

    The Sun Editorial Board weighed in on the tax and said that while the tax is unpopular, the outlook is far worse If states do not invest sufficiently in transportation infrastructure and public transit.

    Yet Gov.Martin O'Malley's proposal to apply a 6 percent sales tax on gasoline phased in over three years (and delayed if retail gas prices rise precipitously), that would pump billions of dollars into local transportation construction projects to reduce congestion on the highways, promote jobs and economic development in this state, and provide public transit alternatives is getting little-to-no traction in the General Assembly so far this year.

    Why? Clearly, people don't want to pay more at the pump no matter what. But the problem with this knee-jerk reaction is that not paying a bit more for gas now ensures only that consumers will be paying a lot more later — and not just at the local filling station.

    Maryland needs to maintain decent roads and transportation infrastructure or its businesses and citizens suffer. From the Port of Baltimore to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and the highways, tunnels, bridges and rail networks, the state's economy depends on maintaining and expanding these vital connections to the rest of the country and the world.

    Opponents in the Virginia Senate senate race, Tim Kaine and George Allen, had a back and forth over super Pacs.

    In sum: A super PAC on behalf of Allen was announced. Kaine wrote a letter to Allen criticizing the use of a super PAC because it goes against Virginia principles of open campaigns. Allen responded and told Kaine to stop taking campaign money from union dues and said his calling for the end of super PACS in campaigns was a political gimmick. Kaine asked for Allen to agree on no secret money this campaign and Allen essentially said no. (For more information on Kaine and Allen's oppossing views on super PAC disclosures click here.)

    The Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Jeff Schapiro wrote a column today saying that Kaine isn’t ruling out a super PAC of his own.

    Tim Kaine is equally skilled at playing the victim and the assailant. And he does both with a smile.

    He continued:

    But Kaine signaled three months ago that he's prepared to go the super PAC route, though he did so in a way that allows him to be the aggrieved and the aggressor.
    In December, in his first formal debate with Allen, Kaine said both candidates should pledge to close the Virginia contest to super PACs and other non-candidate groups. That's what Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown, the Republican incumbent, have done in the Massachusetts Senate fight.
    Because the first unbending principle of politics is flexibility, Kaine gave himself lots of wiggle room, just as Obama did in reversing course and sanctioning his own super PAC as antidote to what the president brands Republican dark money. But it was Allen, an authority on the arcana of federal political fundraising from his stint as head of the GOP Senate campaign arm, who provided Kaine an opening — by rejecting mutual disarmament.

    * Virginia saw a record in agriculture exports in 2011 with $2.35 billion worth of exports, a more than 6 percent increase from 2010.

    Gov. McDonnell announced this Tuesday at the Governor’s Conference of Agricultural Trade in Richmond and his administration said the driver of the increase is soybeans, grains, and meat products and increased demand in Asia, Europe and North Africa.

    According to the RTD, the state’s top three export markets are Morocco, Switzerland and Egypt.

    * The Maryland House of Delegates approved a resolution Tuesday that would raise judges’ salaries by about $14,000 over three years starting in fiscal year 2014.

    The Senate had already passed the raises.

    District Court judge will see their salaries increase from $127,000 to about $141,000.

    The raises will cost the state about $6.8 million.