By MALI KRANTZ
ANNAPOLIS (April 4, 2012)—As Maryland's legislative session nears its end, Gov. Martin O'Malley continues to push for ways to raise much-needed revenue for transportation infrastructure projects.
Most delegates think O'Malley's unpopular gas tax legislation, which would add a 6 percent sales tax on gasoline to fund the state's Transportation Trust Fund, is dead.
On Wednesday, O'Malley again suggested that adding a penny to the general state sales tax could be a more viable solution.
"I always thought the most unpopular thing was when you combine the word gas with the word tax," O'Malley told reporters outside a building renaming ceremony in Annapolis.
He also said adding a penny to Maryland's sales tax would be much less unpopular, although it would raise a comparable amount of revenue.
But some delegates said O'Malley created the transportation funding problem.
"He has no credibility left," said Delegate Herb McMillan, R-Anne Arundel, who describes himself as a moderate Republican. "He has taken money out of the Transportation Trust Fund in the past."
McMillan said adding a penny to the state sales tax will be just as unpopular among his constituents as the gas tax.
Regardless, passing a new tax with only a few days left in the session may be difficult.
"There's talk of a special session," said Delegate Sam Arora, D-Montgomery. "I think that's why you see the Governor doing the trial balloon with the penny on the sales tax. We're in desperate need of transportation revenue, but don't know where to get it."
O'Malley told reporters Wednesday he hadn't considered going into special session to address transportation.
Talk of O'Malley running for president in 2016 has fueled speculation that he is pushing the gas tax to show voters what he accomplished as governor in Maryland, but McMillan didn't see how a tax increase would be something to brag about.
"I can't figure out how taxing the hell out of you qualifies someone to be president," McMillan said. "I think it actually makes him a less attractive candidate nationally."