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Maryland's growing surplus spurs calls for gas tax holiday

Official portrait
Comptroller Peter Franchot

Maryland’s Board of Revenue Estimates unveiled a rosy economic picture Thursday, voting to increase revenue estimates for the current fiscal year and next by a combined $1.6 billion.

That comes to a $7.5 billion surplus over three fiscal years and it led to calls from state leaders to suspend Maryland’s gas tax.

Comptroller Peter Franchot issued the call as the board, of which he is a member, voted on the increase. He was soon followed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and legislative leaders, Senate President Bill Ferguson and Speaker of the House Adrienne Jones, both Democrats.

Franchot called for a three month gas tax holiday. He said it would provide “immediate financial relief for all Marylanders, as well as our small businesses who are also suffering from skyrocketing gas prices and must pass those increased costs onto our consumers.”

Ferguson and Jones said in a statement the increased revenue projections will give lawmakers “the flexibility to provide immediate relief to families” and help ease “the financial burden on everyday Marylanders while keeping the pressure on Vladimir Putin and the Russian oligarchs who have enabled him.”

Hogan said in a statement his administration is “working with our legislative partners on an emergency suspension of the gas tax to help with the pain at the pump” caused by the disruption in oil supply since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Franchot also called for the General Assembly to move to distribute $2,000 stimulus checks to low wage earners, beef up the state’s rainy-day fund and invest in infrastructure projects.

But he warned the increased revenue, which state fiscal experts attributed to the effects of federal stimulus money working its way through the economy, shouldn’t be put to long term spending.

“This is one-time only money,” he said. “What I'm afraid of is that we'll put this money into the operating budget. And then we'll have to, when it stops coming from the feds, we’ll have to increase taxes. That should not happen.”

The gas tax holiday, for example, could easily be paid for with the surplus, he added.

“And it would immensely help these low wage earners who are getting back into the workforce and beginning to commute.”

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.