On July 1, the gas tax rate will be indexed to inflation and there will be a new 1 percent sales tax on gasoline. The sales tax will increase incrementally until it reaches 5 percent in fiscal year 2017, unless federal legislation is enacted on Internet sales taxes, in which case it will top out at 3 percent.
The money from the tax will be used to replenish the dwindling Transportation Trust Fund, which is used to maintain existing infrastructure and to build new projects.
House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said the legislature had been talking about a gas tax increase for years.
“We were all aware that in 2018 there wouldn’t be enough money,” Busch said.
Busch said that when Virginia passed a gas tax increase, it became important for Maryland to do something because both states are vying for the new FBI headquarters, which could be in Greenbelt, Md., or Springfield, Va.
More funding for transportation should ease congestion, expand mass transit and keep Maryland competitive with Virginia for the new site.
O’Malley’s offshore wind energy bill will funnel $1.7 billion of ratepayer subsidies over a 20-year period toward the construction of a wind-power farm 10 to 30 miles off the coast of Ocean City as early as 2017.
“It’s about a better Maryland for tomorrow,” Sen. James Mathias Jr., D-Worcester, the former mayor of Ocean City, told the Senate before the final vote on March 8.
O’Malley’s previous two attempts to push the legislation — the first more ambitious — never made it to the Senate floor, largely because of concerns about the cost to Marylanders.
But a change in the makeup of the Senate Finance Committee, which held up the bill in years past, brought an important vote in favor of offshore wind, said Sen. Thomas McLain Middleton, D-Charles, chairman of the committee.
The bill did not pass without debate and attempted amendments.
“This is the dumbest idea ever,” Pipkin said during the final Senate debate.
Last year, the General Assembly failed to push a medical marijuana program through the Senate after passing it in the House. This year, both chambers passed a measure that would allow academic medical centers to distribute medical marijuana to patients who suffer from debilitating chronic illnesses.
“I think the public opinion has changed on this across the political spectrum. People understand that if somebody's sick, they deserve medication,” said Del. Dan Morhaim, D-Baltimore County, the bill’s sponsor.
Morhaim said Sinai Hospital in Baltimore has already expressed interest in the program. The General Assembly also passed a measure that would expand the affirmative legal defense to caregivers.
Despite their success passing medical marijuana, the General Assembly struggled to push legalization measures.
A bill that would have decriminalized marijuana possession for less than 10 grams passed in the Senate, but never made it out of the House Judiciary Committee. Similarly, another that would have taxed marijuana sales like alcohol never left the House Judiciary Committee.