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Leading lawmakers pump brakes on calls for special legislative session over impending gas tax hike

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Posted at 1:05 PM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 15:19:33-04

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson and Speaker Adrienne Jones pumped the brakes on calls for a special legislative session to address an upcoming 18 percent hike on the state's gas tax.

The state's leading lawmakers issued a joint statement Wednesday placing blame of rising gas prices on the front door of rich oil companies.

"We are all feeling the effects of surging gas prices, which have become a global problem and result from big oil taking advantage of global uncertainty to make record-shattering profits."

Together Ferguson and Jones claim, the tax increase set to go into effect on July 1, "would not result in Marylanders seeing a price reduction at the pump."

Both said halting the tax increase would "be a loss of over $200 million in funding dedicated to ensuring the safety of our State's roads and bridges."

At question is a 2012 law passed by the General Assembly that automatically increases Maryland’s gas taxes based on inflation rates.

Once in effect gas taxes in Maryland will increase to 43 cents per gallon, which almost certainly would cost consumers 7 cents more than the current historically high rate of fuel at the pumps.

Comptroller Peter Franchot was the first to call for a special session on Tuesday.

It came in response to a Monday back-and-forth with Governor Larry Hogan over who could prevent the increase from taking place.

Hogan had called the tax increase "unconscionable," and urged Franchot to either extend the tax payment deadline and/or to waive penalties altogether if they go unpaid.

But Franchot said he doesn't have the legal authority to alter or stop the automatic increase, unless emergency legislation is passed by the General Assembly.

RELATED: Gov. Hogan and Comptroller Franchot each call on the other to ease pain at pump

If granted that authority by lawmakers, Franchot said he would suspend the tax increase from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.

“While there appears to be continued disagreement between the Governor and my office – and the Attorney General’s interpretation of law – on whether or not I have existing authority to suspend the automatic increase to the gas tax set to go into effect on July 1, one thing is for certain: the executive and legislative branches have unquestionable authority to prevent an 18% increase to the gas tax – from 36 cents to 43 cents – from taking effect," Franchot said Tuesday.

A spokesman from Hogan's office responded to Franchot's latest proposal by saying, "all this flailing by the Comptroller isn’t helping Marylanders."

GOP House members meanwhile, have also signed onto a letter pushing for the special session.

In the meantime, Franchot is also asking the legislature to again impose a state gas tax holiday through September 30, similar to the one adopted in March.

But Ferguson and Jones also seem to have put that proposal on ice.

"Temporary tax holidays have long-term consequences. As fuel prices rise, so too do the costs of maintenance and construction in our transportation sector. Ensuring the safety and integrity of Maryland’s roadways, bridges, and transit systems is critical," Ferguson and Jones said in a shared statement. "We cannot have a reliable transportation network that regularly experiences failing conditions due to insufficient funding and deferred maintenance."