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Franchot Again Calls For Extending Gas Tax Holiday To 90 Days

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Labeling the current schedule "overly conservative," Comptroller Peter Franchot on Wednesday renewed his call for extending the gas tax holiday in Maryland to 90 days, saying the state can afford to provide more relief at the pump.

When Gov. Larry Hogan signed the 30-day holiday into law on March 18, the average price for a gallon of gas in Maryland was $4.166, about 10 cents below the national average, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. As of Wednesday, it stands at $3.776 now that the state has paused its collection of $0.36 per gallon. The national average is $4.237 a gallon.

"Not only can we afford to extend the gas tax holiday to 90 days, but we should extend it to 90 days to continue to provide meaningful relief to Marylanders," Franchot said at Wednesday's Board of Public Works meeting.

Earlier this month, the state's Board of Revenue Estimates, of which Franchot is a member, projected a $7.5 billion surplus in Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023, thanks in part to a $2.5 billion balance from the previous fiscal year.

Franchot called for a 90-day gas tax holiday during the March 10 presentation of the revenue projections. as well as stimulus payments to low-income families, small businesses and childcare providers.

Speaking Wednesday, Franchot said a 90-day holiday would provide an estimated $250 million in relief for residents.

Funds collected from the gas tax go to trust funds for transportation and the environment. The state will use a portion of its billion surplus to cover the losses.

The Transform Maryland Transportation Coalition sent a letter to legislative leaders asking them to oppose the tax holiday, arguing it would adversely impact transportation funding and stimulate more driving and a higher demand for gas.

The group said a stipend for low-income Marylanders would be a more effective short-term solution.

"In the long term, Maryland needs to build greater resilience into our transportation system so we are less vulnerable to spikes in gas prices," the group said. "Maryland needs to make it easier for people and goods to get where they need to go without making the climate crisis worse."

Maryland State Treasurer Dereck Davis, a member of the Board of Public Works and Board of Revenue Estimates, offered a more cautious outlook, saying the tax holiday could not be extended "indefinitely."

He pointed to 2006, when after years of rate freezes, Baltimore Gas and Electric announced rates would be going up 72%.

While he didn't endorse extending the measure, Davis said he would have voted for the 30-day holiday.

"I also wanted everyone to know that as of now it's slated to be a temporary measure that ends on April 16, and at that point, we have to be prepared that we may be going back to what the market dictates," he said.

Franchot, who is running to become the Democratic nominee for governor, called on the Maryland General Assembly to extend the holiday during the legislative session, ending April 11, rather than wait to take up the matter during a special session.

"I think the money is there, obviously, and it's going to be wildly popular," he said.

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