Towson is Home Turf for Anti-Gas Tax Petition Drive

… Americans for Prosperity conducts Saturday drive at York Road gas stations …

By Steve Schuster, sschuster@patuxent.com

Posted 3/05/11

When Towson resident Jin Park was trying to refuel the family vehicle on Saturday, he didn’t know volunteers representing Americans for Prosperity would line the streets surrounding Towson area gas stations with petitions in hand, protesting multiple proposed gas tax increases in Annapolis.

“I didn’t know they would be here today,” Park said.

Park said he was also surprised to learn that more than 40 cents per gallon of gas already goes to state and federal taxes; and also wasn’t aware that legislators wanted to increase the state gas tax even further.

As Towson area motorists drove by the protesters at gas stations at York Road and Seminary Avenue, car horns sounded, people rolled down their windows and frequent supportive hand gestures were displayed, including many “thumbs-up.”

Several volunteers from the group helped to get their message out.

One volunteer, Karen Dickens traveled to Towson on Saturday from Perry Hall because, she said, she’s worried about the ripple effect increase fuel costs can have in other sectors.

“We just think enough is enough. The (proposed) increased gas tax will add to the cost of everything and people just can’t afford it right now,” Dickens said.

Another volunteer, Anita Schatz, a Kingsville resident, said it’s getting harder to make ends meet.

“My husband and I are on a fixed income,” she said. “We just can’t afford this (tax increase).”

Both volunteers said should the gas tax increase measures pass, it is reasonably foreseeable that Baltimore County grocery shoppers will soon see a spike in food costs.

Towson area drivers have already seen a near 20 cent per gallon increase at the pump recently because of tensions in the middle east, WBAL-TV reported Friday.

Representatives of the group, Americans for Prosperity, gathered Saturday at gas stations in both Towson and Catonsville, where volunteers rallied for a petition drive aimed at thwarting proposed legislation in the General Assembly that could increase the states gas tax.

Currently, Marylanders pay 41.9 cents per gallon in taxes, 23.5 cents per gallon from the state tax, in addition to 18.4 cents per gallon in federal gas tax.

There are currently two bills before the General Assembly regarding gas taxes increases. The first measure, introduced by Sen. Robert Garagiola` of Montgomery County, would increase the state’s gas tax by 10 cents per gallon, from 23.5 to 33.5 cents per gallon.

The second measure in Annapolis was introduced by Sen. Roger Manno, also of Montgomery County. That bill, co-sponsored with Senate President Mike Miller, would add a 4 percent sales tax to the cost of a gallon of gas, in addition to Maryland’s existing 6 percent tax.

Steve Bailey, a representative for the local chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a group that advocates smaller government , said last week that the revenue from a tax increase would be deposited into a dedicated transportation trust fund — but he said in the past state officials have “raided the trust fund.”

Legislators stand by their bills.

Last week, responding via e-mail to a request from the Towson Times for comment, Manno said, “Maryland’s roads and transit needs are in deep crisis. Without dedicated funding for our transportation trust fund, we will continue to languish. …

“A gas tax that fluctuates with the price of gas, in addition to diverting a portion of those revenues to a mass transit fund, makes good sense,” Manno wrote, “but it’s certainly not the only revenue option on the table.”

Bailey said Americans for Prosperity plans to conduct petition drives over the next week, and will take the petitions to Annapolis and present them to legislators.

Bailey who was in Towson Saturday, said the group has already collected more than 1,000 signatures on the petitions, not including a couple hundred signatures on the Internet.

Bailey said the next petition drive at local gas stations will take place on March 12.

Even if the measures to increase the state’s gas tax passed both chambers, the measures would still need to be signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley.

O’Malley has not yet taken a position on the matter, according to an e-mail response to a Towson Times last week from Shaun Adamec, spokesman for O’Malley.

“The governor will review what comes out of the General Assembly and keep an open mind through the process,” Adamec said in the e-mail.

The Towson Times

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