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Gas tax holiday is almost here

SENATE FLOOR.jpg
Joel McCord/WYPR
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The Maryland Senate

Bills that would provide Marylanders temporary relief from skyrocketing gas prices by suspending the state gas tax for a month passed both houses of the General Assembly Thursday.

The bills were sent to the opposite chambers in hopes of getting them to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk quickly.

A spokeswoman for the governor says they are planning on a signing ceremony Friday.

Legislative analysts say the holiday will cost the state $93.6 million in lost revenue to the fund that pays for transportation projects. There are no reliable estimates on what it will save the average driver.

In addition to suspending the state's 36.1 cents per gallon gas tax for 30 days, the bills contain a provision that directs the state comptroller’s office to reimburse gas stations for taxes paid on fuel that’s already in their storage tanks. They also require the stations to report their fuel inventory when the holiday ends.

The reimbursement provisions were written into the bill after gas station owners explained to lawmakers that they couldn’t drop their prices immediately because they had already paid the tax and were passing it on to their customers.

During debate before a preliminary vote Wednesday, Senate Republicans tried to add language to repeal a 2013 measure that ties the tax to the rate of inflation.

Sen. Mike Hough, of Frederick County, predicted that the gas tax will skyrocket in July when the adjustment is made for inflation.

“If we really want to help consumers, let's not give them a 30 day holiday and then raise their gas tax,” he said. “Let's get rid of the automatic gas tax increase.”

Senate President Bill Ferguson argued the tax helps pay for transportation projects. Disconnecting it from inflation would risk the state’s ability to maintain its infrastructure.

He said Maryland lacked the resources to maintain and expand its roads, bridges and transit systems when lawmakers passed the 2013 measure.

“And that's why having the resources to match inflation makes sense,” he said.
This post has been updated.