ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Governor Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot are going back and forth on who has the power to halt a gas tax hike set to go in effect on July 1.
Hogan was first to sound the alarm Monday renewing concerns over the impending tax increase amid historically high prices at the pump.
In a letter to Comptroller Peter Franchot, Hogan called the planned increase "unconscionable."
He urged Franchot to either extend the payment deadline and/or to remove penalties altogether if they go unpaid.
🚨@GovLarryHogan has called on Comptroller Peter Franchot to immediately take steps to halt or minimize the impact of the legislative gas tax increase.— Kata Hall Burke (@katadhall) May 23, 2022
Read the governor's letter: pic.twitter.com/XxXIvOENzA
Franchot quickly responded saying he "wholeheartedly agree[s]" that the automatic increase in the gas tax "is both morally and economically irresponsible."
"Indeed, it is disappointing that the executive and legislative branches were unable to come together and prevent this automatic increase during the 2022 Legislative Session. Instead, we now find ourselves in a situation where we are looking for legal and regulatory loopholes to prevent this devastating tax hike from taking place."
- Comptroller Peter Franchot in a letter to Governor Larry Hogan
But Franchot also said he does not have the legal authority to alter or stop the automatic increase to the state’s gas tax rate.
“If there was a way for me to legally stop the increase in the gas tax rate, trust me, I would,” said Franchot.
Hogan's office seemed to disagree, citing past past examples of when Franchot stepped in to extend due dates for tax payments during economic crises such as COVID-19 or Hurricane Ida in 2021.
Franchot rejected Hogan's idea of extending deadlines for the gas tax to be paid, saying that would only help rich oil companies and do nothing for the consumer.
"Their suggestion to delay the payment deadline for gas suppliers to remit their taxes on gasoline will not result in reductions in prices at the pump - this will only allow oil companies (with record profits last year) to delay paying those taxes they collect from consumers," Franchot said in a follow-up statement.
Instead, the Comptroller called on Hogan to proclaim a State of Energy Emergency to suspend the impending gas tax himself.
At question is a 2012 law passed by the General Assembly that automatically increases Maryland’s gas taxes based on inflation rates.
This July when it kicks in, gas taxes in the state will increase to 43 cents per gallon, which would be about 7 cents higher than the current rate.
As of Friday Maryland’s average gas price was already at historic highs of $4.61 a gallon, which is up 56 cents from last month, and $1.56 from a year ago.
For his part, Franchot had tried earlier this year to extend a gas tax holiday but the legislature ultimately chose not to approve one beyond 30 days.
Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson both declined to comment.