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Maryland leaders point fingers as state faces automatic $200M gas tax increase

Gov. Larry Hogan is demanding that Comptroller Peter Franchot waive the increase, but Franchot says he can't and wants a special legislative session called.

SILVER SPRING, Md. — To add to already record-high gas prices, on July 1, Maryland will impose an almost 20% increase in its tax on gas. That $200 million jump in taxes on Maryland families will go into effect automatically, unless politicians do something to stop it.

Yet they're still squabbling.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot is calling for a truce in his battle with the governor over who has the power to head off this automatic 18% increase in the gas tax scheduled to hit just in time for summer drives to the beach. The comptroller is urging Gov. Larry Hogan to call legislators back to Annapolis for a special legislative session to give him the power to waive the increase.

"This could incinerate the state's economy," Franchot said. "It's a really, really bad situation." 

Without a solution, the tax will jump from 36.1 cents per gallon to 42.7 cents per gallon, putting Maryland among the top 10 highest gas tax states in the country.

Hogan (R-MD), who is in Switzerland for a global economic forum, has been demanding Franchot delay the increase. But Franchot said he doesn't have the legal power to do that.

"Call a truce, get the legislature back, have them vote on it," Franchot said. "Once they see the implication of an 18% increase this year, and 20-25% next year, they'll understand why this automatic legislation they passed years ago is out of date." 

A spokesperson for Hogan, Michael Ricci, said the governor wants to see a plan from Franchot's office first. 

"We look forward to hearing the Comptroller’s plan to help minimize the impact of this tax increase—as he has done in similar situations in the past," Ricci said. 

For drivers, even gas station owners, there's a growing consensus that something has to be done to bring prices down. 

"Sometimes they throw stuff on us,"  said Bahira Motuma, who owns the Shell station at Piney Branch Rd. and Greenwood Ave. in Silver Spring. "I don't blame them actually."

Franchot is pushing for a gas tax holiday through Sept. 30, which he says would almost pay for itself. 

"Hundreds of thousands of out-of-state drivers will come to Maryland looking for cheap gas," he said.

Supporters say the gas tax pays for roads and bridges and may help speed the transition to electric vehicles.

As for a special session, the House Speaker’s office says "no comment" right now.

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