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Watch out for Governor’s car tax bill to come in the mail soon

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on July 02, 2004:

Senator Dyson I received a frightening yellow notice in the mail the other day. You already have or will soon as well. In fact, every Marylander with a driver’s license will. This unwelcome piece of mail notified me that my automobile registration will rise to $128 for the next two years beginning today, July 1, 2004. That’s up from $81 just a year ago. As late as 1998, this fee was only $27 for one year, or $54 for two years.

The governor’s car tax -- which I refused to vote for -- will go into effect on July 1. However some people like me whose registration doesn’t come due until after that date, have already received their notice. They’ve been “sticker” shocked to say the least.

I’m certainly glad I don’t own an SUV or a truck. The car tax introduced by the governor now makes SUV or truck drivers pay an astronomical $180 every two years, up from $108 last year. With gas prices hovering around $2 a gallon, SUV and truck owners are even more cash strapped because of this new tax because it sure takes a lot more to fill up their tanks than an average automobile.

The governor is calling this, as well as all of his other tax increases that passed this year’s General Assembly Session -- without my vote -- a “fee.” I ’ve always understood a fee to be a one-time payment for a service. A tax is a consistent financial burden on consumers that does not go away and always increases. Believe me, we are stuck with this tax and I’m sure if the governor continues to get away with his tax and spend policies, it’ll go up even further. He even considered raising the gas tax early in the year before prices at the pump skyrocketed out of control.

The governor has said that this car tax will help fund the much-needed Hughesville bypass. However, he has already played his hand with his transportation priorities saying the proposed Inter-County Connector between Montgomery and Prince George’s County is his number one transportation priority. He has neglected to say that money has already been set aside for the Hughesville bypass by the previous administration. Planning and engineering studies have already been completed. The Hughesville bypass has already received millions of dollars in seed money under the previous administration for clearing and moving utility lines.

The governor didn’t have to use the car tax arm twisting over my fellow colleagues to fund the rest of the Hughesville bypass. He could have easily included this much-needed project in this year’s budget. On October 31, 2003, I wrote the governor asking him to meet with me and members of the Hughesville Volunteer Fire Department “so they can show us first-hand what it is like to deal with this hazard [the Hughesville bypass].”

I never received a return letter or telephone call from the governor. Neither did the Hughesville Volunteer Fire Department which sent a similar request to the governor.

Even earlier in 2003, I exhorted Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan in a September 16 letter to “lobby Governor Ehrlich to include full funding for the bypass in the FY2004 budget.”

In my letter, I reminded Secretary Flanagan -- who is one of the governor’s top lieutenants in the administration -- that “last year at a meeting of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, I made a motion, which was seconded by Delegate Anthony J. O’Donnell, that the Council draft a letter to [the Maryland Department of Transportation] making the Hughesville bypass Southern Maryland’s top transportation priority.”

The Tri-County Council approved my motion. In my letter to Flanagan, I asked him and Governor Ehrlich to “provide the leadership to fast track this project. The Hughesville bypass is equal to if not more important to the State of Maryland than the Inter-County Connector.”

I never received a response from the Secretary or the governor about my request to put this relatively modest funding into the budget.

Now, we are paying for their inattention to my requests to put the money into the budget. The governor, who ran on a much-welcome “no new taxes” pledge has reneged on that promise with a series of tax increases including the car and flush tax among others not to mention last year’s massive hike in our property taxes which he vigorously supported before the Board of Public Works after the 2003 General Assembly Session adjourned. The car tax is yet another onerous burden on our checkbooks. This could have been avoided.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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