Over the past several days, Governor Larry Hogan(R) and Comptroller Peter Franchot(D) disagreed on suspending the upcoming automatic gas tax increase on July 1, 2022.

On May 23, 2022, the governor sent a letter to the Comptroller; the governor noted that the comptroller has been a strong advocate for protecting Marylanders from rising gas prices and pointed out that in the past, the comptroller has taken actions to protect Marylanders from impending tax deadlines and burdens. In January of this year, for example, Comptroller Franchot extended the individual income tax filing and payment due date for the third consecutive year and the individual estimated tax payment due dates to give “breathing room” to Marylanders who were struggling financially.

“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 writes. “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.”

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 the 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. 

Following these revelations, Senate President Ferguson and Speaker Jones released a statement,” We are all feeling the effects of surging gas prices, which have become a global problem and result from big oil taking advantage of global uncertainty to make record-shattering profits. “

The statement went on to say, “The suggested elimination of the six-cent per gallon inflation adjustment on wholesale gas purchases would not result in Marylanders seeing a price reduction at the pump but would be a loss of over $200 million in funding dedicated to ensuring the safety of our State’s roads and bridges.”

“Furthermore, temporary tax holidays have long-term consequences. As fuel prices rise, so too do the costs of maintenance and construction in our transportation sector. Ensuring the safety and integrity of Maryland’s roadways, bridges, and transit systems is critical. We cannot have a reliable transportation network that regularly experiences failing conditions due to insufficient funding and deferred maintenance. “

“We have a duty to Marylanders to protect their health, safety, and economic security and will continue to work with others to ease the burden Marylanders are facing due to rising prices.  The problem is not the marginal impact of the $0.06 inflation adjustment to the wholesale gas tax. The problem is big oil companies exploiting global uncertainty to drive the price of gas to more than $4 a gallon.”

Delegate Matt Morgan(R) District 29A said,” They should have passed [pausing the gas tax] this last session. Every cent matters today. Fuel prices have caused everything to go up everywhere. It’s not compassionate to the Maryland residents to raise taxes when we’re at an all-time high fuel level.”

Gas tax revenue goes to the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund, which can be used for roads, bridges, mass transit, and maintenance.

The gas tax will rise from 36 cents to 43 cents on July 1, 2022. If the gas tax suspension is not passed, Maryland would have the fourth highest gas tax in the USA behind Pennsylvania($.576), California($.511), and Washington($.494).

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...

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply