At Greenbelt City Council’s regular meeting, council members Edward Putens and Rodney Roberts lambasted the gasoline tax increase proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley.
Roberts told council that he and a lot of other people have to rely on a truck to do their business.
"Every single day I go in and it's 5 cents more than it was the day before," Roberts complained. "Every time it goes up, you know, my thin, thin profit margin gets shaved down a little bit more."
Councilmember Leta Mach said she knew raising the tax might be a tough pill to swallow but told council there were bridges and roads that had to be repaired—and that people would like to have a Metro Purple Line.
On Wednesday, the governor told House and Senate lawmakers that failure to raise the gas tax could lead to crumbling roads and collapsing bridges in the future, as reported by The Washington Times.
Calling Maryland’s traffic some of the worst in America, the governor introduced The Maryland Transportation Financing and Infrastructure Investment Act of 2012 (SB 971/HB 1302) on February 14. If passed, it would phase in a 6 percent gas sales tax over three years. Part of the projected $613 million in revenue raised by the tax would go toward Maryland’s aging infrastructure needs, according to O’Malley.
But Greenbelt City Council voted 4-3 on Monday in favor of taking no action for or against the tax, with council members Putens and Konrad Herling voting against doing nothing.
Although Roberts had vehemently opposed the proposed hike, telling council, "It's just a nonstop assault on the taxpayers coming out of Annapolis, and I'm not going to support any of this," when it came down to this particular vote, he was silent.
Mayor Judith "J" Davis inquired into his stand, and Roberts informed her that he hadn't voted, which he said made his vote a no.
Mayor Pro-Tem Emmett Jordan had offered the motion to take no action, which was seconded by Silke Pope.
Jordan questioned why the council was voting on an issue on which they had no jurisdiction.
Davis responded that sometimes it was a matter of principal, "as Mr. Roberts will often say."
Roberts who owns RMR Mobile Repairs, which services equipment and vehicle repairs, spoke of a day in the future where it would no longer make sense for him to try to make a living that way—if his gasoline costs continued to rise.
Davis warned, "There are bridges that need to be replaced. There's no money to replace them. There are roads that are in terrible shape, there will be no money to really repair them." But the mayor also agreed with Roberts that there was a cost to everybody.
She speculated that people may have sailed along for a long time thinking water, electricity and transportation were cheap. "And now we're actually having to pay for what it is to keep it clean or repaired or maintained or improved. And that may be something that we can't afford."
Like its council, the Greenbelt residents who attended Monday's meeting could not agree on the legislation.
Speaking at the meeting, resident Chris Schuman urged council to oppose all the machinations that were happening in Annapolis. "It is death by a thousand cuts," he said, adding that raising taxes would set us back on the road to recovery.
Greenbelter Bill Orleans didn't feel the same. "Oil is a finite resource," he said, telling council he thought peak oil had been reached. All seven members of the council should do what was necessary to increase the tax people paid in Maryland on the finite resource, Orleans said.
Finding a balance between the effect of price increases and the need for infrastructure repairs was tough, Council Member Konrad Herling lamented. Yet, he said he felt it was weak to make no recommendation yet saying that the roads should be fixed.
Just before council took its final vote to take no action, Putens had offered a motion asking council to vote to take a position against the governor's transportation and infrastructure legislation. Roberts seconded the motion.
"I'm not going to buy into all these things—if you don't do this, this is what's going to happen," Putens said talking about infrastructure warnings and predictions of staff cuts. "Baloney. I don't believe it. I'm not going to buy it, and half the general assembly is not buying it."
Council voted 5-2 against Puten's motion to oppose the Maryland Transportation and Infrastructure Investment Act, with Putens and Roberts voting to support the motion—while Mach, Herling, Davis, Jordan and Pope voted against council taking a position to oppose the legislation.