The leader of the Maryland House of Delegates might be ready to take charge on transportation funding.
An aide to House Speaker Michael E. Busch said Tuesday the Annapolis lawmaker is working on a proposal to raise money for transportation projects.
Busch previously said he didn't expect any action on a transportation funding until "well into" March. Until Tuesday, he's been silent on any specific action that might be taken in the House.
Earlier this month, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller filed Senate Bill 830 which includes a new 3 percent sales tax on gas at the wholesale level. He called the bill "a menu of options," and said it was submitted to start a discussion.
Miller said Tuesday movement on Busch's end was a good sign. But he said he still thinks Gov. Martin O'Malley needs to submit a bill in the House or Senate for the movement to really gain traction.
"Anything that they can do to move forward on transportation, we welcome," Miller said. "It needs to be a team effort. Hopefully the governor can make a decision sooner rather than later in terms of what he supports, let us know what he supports and then we can move forward."
Maryland's efforts come in the wake of Virginia passing a transportation funding plan on Feb. 23 to infuse about $880 million into its roads and transit system.
Deputy U.S. Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari spoke to the Maryland House Democratic caucus on Tuesday, offering a presentation on Virginia's package. Porcari served two stretches as Maryland transportation secretary.
The Maryland Department of Transportation said it will need between $400 million to $800 million more annually. Officials from MDOT said they currently only have enough money to maintain existing systems and lack funds to continue construction or plan for new projects.
Lawmakers have battled for years over funding sources for expensive transit projects including the Metro rail system's Red Line in Baltimore, the Purple Line in Prince George's and Montgomery counties, and the Corridor Cities Transitway, which would link Clarksburg and the Shady Grove Metro station in Gaithersburg.
Miller's plan would add a new 3 percent sales tax on gas and create two regional transit districts that could use the property tax to spur additional funds for projects in those regions. It also includes the requirement that by 2017 counties will increase the 23.5-cents-per-gallon gas tax by 5 cents to raise money for projects in their jurisdictions.
He also proposed Senate Bill 829, which would put the state's Transportation Trust Fund in a lockbox, preventing it from being raided for other purposes unless there was a fiscal crisis.
O'Malley has yet to back a specific plan, but has actively advocated for more state transportation funding. O'Malley proposed raising the state's general sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent last year and earmarking the additional revenue for transportation.
The governor's office had yet to comment on Tuesday's discussions when this story was published.
Copyright 2013 - The Capital, Annapolis, Md.