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Maryland Lawmakers Fast-Track Bill To Halt Collection Of Gas Tax

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Some much-needed relief could soon be on the way for Marylanders facing skyrocketing prices at the pump.

State lawmakers on Friday introduced a piece of emergency legislation that would suspend collection of the state's gas tax for 30 days, offering a break to residents who have been paying record gas prices.

While the bill has not yet been passed, it has bipartisan support and is being fast-tracked through the legislative process in an effort to send it to the governor's desk for his signature next week.

The bill was introduced on Friday in response to calls for action from Gov. Larry Hogan, Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson, House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Comptroller Peter Franchot.

"Got the bill drafted overnight," Ferguson said. "It was introduced this morning, and we're gonna act incredibly quickly to be able to make this emergency measure to enact it as quickly as possible."

The state's fuel tax is approximately 36 cents per gallon, according to data provided by the comptroller's office.

As of Friday the average price for a gallon of gas in Maryland was $4.30, meaning the suspension would save drivers a few bucks to fill up smaller cars and several dollars for larger vehicles.

Once the legislation is signed, it would take effect immediately, though Ferguson said it might take a little longer for Marylanders to see the change's impact.

"Certainly, the comptroller's office, who oversees the gas tax collection, would be the person in charge of making sure that stations move as quickly as possible to reduce the prices," Ferguson said. "There's no reason they shouldn't, so we want to make sure we have protections to make sure they do."

Citing an anticipated increase in state revenues, Ferguson and Speaker Jones issued a statement Thursday, saying they're seeking a 30-day gas tax holiday.

"Increased revenue projections for this year and next year give us the flexibility to provide immediate relief to families," the pair said. "This swift action will help ease the financial burden on everyday Marylanders while keeping pressure on Vladimir Putin and the Russian oligarchs who have enabled him."

Hogan echoed that sentiment, saying he supports a suspension.

"At this time of global uncertainty due to Russian aggression, we are working with our legislative partners on an emergency suspension of the gas tax to help with the pain at the pump," Hogan said Thursday. "We also support ongoing efforts in the legislature to suspend automatic increases in the gas tax."

Yet Comptroller and gubernatorial candidate Peter Franchot said a month-long suspension isn't enough, contending that $7.5 billion in excess revenues over the next two years have the state positioned well to do more.

Instead, Franchot has called for a three-month gas tax holiday.

"The unfortunate reality is the economic whiplash at the gas pump resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine will be felt by Marylanders for more than 30 days," he said.

An increasing number of governors and state lawmakers across the United States are calling for the suspension of gas taxes, according to a CBS News report.

Proposals for a "gas tax holiday" to counter inflation had been moving slowly in Congress and state capitols before Russia invaded Ukraine, but they have gained momentum this week amid surging prices that averaged $4.25 a gallon on Wednesday, according to AAA.

Sham Sheesh, who owns a gas station in Anne Arundel County, said he cannot wait for the bill to pass. He said he's never seen gas prices jump the way they have in recent weeks.

"It's (an) awesome thing," Sheesh said. "It's going to be a blessing for us and for the customers."

Some drivers weren't fazed by rising prices.

"I don't worry about it too much," Robin Hennick said. "I think people put a little bit too much, 'We're not going to make a trip.' An extra $10 isn't going to change my day."

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