Commentary by Ron Miller
(July 1, 2009) You may have heard that Maryland Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller is promising to put an increase in the state's gas tax on the General Assembly agenda and plans to make it a priority should he be reelected. This isn't a new proposal on his part, as he's been advocating a gas tax hike for a few years now. Nonetheless, this reflects to me an elected official who has no idea of the impact of his policies on the lives of the average citizen, especially his constituents in southern Maryland.
An increased gax tax isn't likely to solve the problem of an underfunded Transportation Trust Fund. That fund is raided constantly to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars to replenish the general fund and help keep our state budget balanced each year. Only a percentage of the money taken out of the fund ever makes its way back. The one-party monopoly in Annapolis has no discipline when it comes to spending, and they treat dedicated funds as "get out of jail" money rather than a lockbox.
A more intriguing question is this: why would Mike Miller advocate a tax that has a disproportionate impact on his home region of southern Maryland? Does he not understand the implications of such a tax for his constituents, or doesn't he care?
Let's be parochial for a minute. A hike in the gas tax will have the most significant impact on rural communities, which comprise the bulk of his senatorial district, and commuters, also a majority in his district. A survey conducted by the Calvert County Department of Economic Development in 2007 shows that more than 60% of the people who live in Calvert County commute to work outside the county, with the highest percentage commuting to Washington, DC, followed by Prince George's County, St. Mary's County and northern Virginia.
Overall, though over 85% of St. Marys County commuters remain within the tri-county area for work, roughly half of Charles and Calvert County commuters leave the Southern Maryland region during their daily commutes. Even driving within Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's County involves long distances and the frequent refilling of gas tanks. It's safe to conclude a higher gas tax is precisely what Mike Miller's constituents and people in the counties that surround his district don't need, especially during a recession and with gas prices on the rise once again.
Some might argue that, as Senate president, he has to take the global view for the state of Maryland and that his proposal is an act of political courage. Where is the courage in taking and spending other people's money? The people of Maryland are already among the most heavily taxed in the nation, and a gas tax is broad-based and hits young families, the working poor and seniors particularly hard.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once famously said, "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money." As parents, we don't give money to our children when we know all they're going to do is spend it irresponsibly. Our elected officials in Annapolis have less discipline than a child when it comes to spending our money, and before we give them another red cent, they ought to demonstrate they can be trusted with what they've already taken from us.
Most politicians say they won't tax you and then do so once they're in office. Mike Miller's already telling us he's going to raise our taxes. Don't say you weren't warned.
Ron Miller, of Huntingtown, is a conservative blogger and activist, former and future candidate for the Maryland Senate, and communications director for the Calvert County Republican Party. Ron is a regular contributor to
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