Maryland’s governor urges the comptroller to think long and hard about the state’s gas tax this summer before ordering any increase.

Gov. Larry Hogan is asking Comptroller Peter Franchot to take immediate steps that would either stop or lessen the impact the legislatively passed gas tax.

According to a release, through 2013 legislation, the comptroller is to calculate and announce any gas tax increases each year before June 1. That announced gas tax would go into effect July 1 and is calculated by the comptroller’s office.

“This tax increase, while hardship-inducing for Marylanders at any time, is simply unconscionable when gas prices are already at their highest level in recorded history amid a period of prolonged inflation and economic uncertainty,” Hogan wrote in a letter to the comptroller. “I know that you agree we should do more to give Marylanders a break from these punishing prices. That is why I hope that you will use every legal and regulatory power at your disposal to halt or minimize the impact of the accelerating gas taxes and that you consider granting an extension for paying the taxes and removing penalties for unpaid tax, including the revocation of business licenses.”

Maryland was the first state to approve a gas tax suspension this year amid rising gas prices, setting a new record for high prices over the past two weeks.

The state suspended its 36.1 cents per gallon gas tax on March 18 and a 36.85 cents per gallon tax on diesel fuel for a 30-day period.

Hogan cited in the Tuesday letter that the “comptroller has been a strong advocate” for protecting the state’s population from rising gas taxes. The governor wrote that the comptroller’s office had taken precautions to protect residents from tax deadlines and other burdens in the past.

Hogan pointed out that the comptroller, earlier this year, extended income tax filing and payment due dates for the third straight year and pushed out tax payment due dates to provide taxpayers with “breathing room” for those who were financially struggling to make ends meet, the release said.

“Given shaky oil markets, record inflation, and a skyrocketing cost of living, the continued surges in gas prices are inflicting more pain at the pump than Marylanders can bear,” the governor wrote, according to the release. “I am calling on you to take immediate action to provide much-needed relief, particularly as citizens of our state begin to plan their summer travels.”

The governor also pointed out, the release reads, that in 2015 the General Assembly rejected Hogan’s proposed legislation that would eliminate the gas tax increases that were because of inflation. Plus, the Legislature, Hogan pointed out, “failed to act” on repealing a portion of the gas tax through next year.

Comptroller Peter Franchot yesterday sent a letter to Governor Larry Hogan, Senate President Bill Ferguson, and House Speaker Adrienne Jones urging them to convene a special session of the Maryland General Assembly to pass emergency legislation granting the Comptroller the authority to waive the 18% increase to the state gas tax, scheduled to be implemented on July 1.

The Comptroller also called on the legislature to pass another state gas tax holiday through September 30, 2022, similar to the 30-day gas tax holiday adopted in March. 

At the request of the Governor, the Comptroller’s Office reviewed all available regulatory and legal powers to prevent the largest-ever increase — from 36.1 cents per gallon to 42.7 cents per gallon — from automatically occurring on July 1. For several days, staff and lawyers within the Comptroller’s Office have reviewed state law and determined that no statutory discretion exists for the Comptroller to take unilateral action. The Attorney General’s Office has concurred with this assessment.

“While there appears to be continued disagreement between the Governor and my office – and the Attorney General’s interpretation of law – on whether or not I have existing authority to suspend the automatic increase to the gas tax set to go into effect on July 1, one thing is for certain: the executive and legislative branches have unquestionable authority to prevent an 18% increase to the gas tax – from 36 cents to 43 cents – from taking effect,” Franchot wrote in the letter. “This amounts to a new, highly regressive $200 million tax on Maryland families and small businesses.”

In his letter, the Comptroller indicated that if granted legislative authority to suspend the automatic increase to the gas tax, he intends to do so for one fiscal year, from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023. 

In several media reports, the Governor’s Office has referenced previous actions taken by Comptroller Franchot to grant extensions for tax filing and payments, including extending the filing and payment deadline for state income taxes from April 15 to July 15 for the past three years. Each of the actions cited by the Governor’s Office is statutorily permitted under current law and does not relate to modifying legislatively-enacted tax rates. 

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...

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