The Greater Baltimore Committee, the region’s leading business organization, March 12 voiced its unequivocal support for a proposed increase to the state’s gasoline tax and tying it to inflation. Calling the tax “something the business community can get behind,” Greater Baltimore Committee president and CEO Donald C. Fry explained the rationale for the GBC’s support.
“I understand that the immediate reaction of every driver will be to say ‘no,’” said Fry, “but I hope they will take a minute to consider what this really means.” Unlike the sales tax or other state taxes, the current gas tax is not calculated as a percentage of any price, he said. If the price of clothing goes up, so does the amount of the sales tax. “The gas tax is fixed. It has not increased along with the cost of gas, decreasing its value every year. And we have not raised the amount per gallon for 15 years.”
“Secondly,” he said, “with the gas tax, there is a direct relationship between the tax you pay and the service you get.” Fry referred to the fact that the tax would be applied directly to transportation projects such as the proposed Red Line from Woodlawn to Canton. “There is general agreement that we need improved public transportation – it is a service for the people and they want it. This is a reasonable way to fund projects such as the Red and the Green lines.” The proposed gas tax increase would provide approximately $400 million a year for roads and mass transit.
“Our transportation needs are growing. We cannot ignore the fact that in 10 years, there will be 210,000 more people in the greater Baltimore region. How will they get around without creating the kind of transportation nightmares that northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. face every day? With this tax, we have a chance to get ahead of the curve. And we will all reap the rewards.”
Fry, a transportation expert, was co-chair of the Governor’s transition team workgroup that looked at the Department of Transportation. One of the transition team’s recommendations was to increase the gas tax to fund transportation projects. Fry also headed Vision 2030, a coalition of civic and business leaders that studied regional infrastructure issues in depth.