Friday, September 30, 2022

Maryland revenue estimates increase by $1.6 billion

ANNAPOLIS, Md. ( Associated Press) — Maryland’s revenue projections have jumped an additional $1.6 billion for the current and next fiscal years, state officials said Thursday, prompting a push to suspend the state’s tax on gasoline amid rising prices as the nation cuts off Russian oil imports.

The increased revenue projections are the ongoing result of huge federal aid to address the coronavirus pandemic. The revenue is in addition to several billion dollars in budget surplus that state lawmakers have been considering how to manage as they shape the state’s budget for the next fiscal year.

The added revenue estimates, which includes $867 million for the current fiscal year and $737 million for the next one, are largely due to growth in individual and corporate tax collections.

Both Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, and Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, are calling to suspend the gas tax.

Franchot, a member of the Board of Revenue Estimates and the state’s tax collector, called for a three-month gas tax holiday, as well as a second round of economic stimulus to help low-wage earners, small businesses and child-care providers who continue to struggle from the pandemic.

“We’re in a strong financial position to help Marylanders and our small businesses, and if passed this gas tax holiday provides immediate financial relief for all Marylanders,” Franchot, whose office also regulates motor fuel, said during a meeting of the board to revise revenue projections, adding: “This would affect everybody.”

Hogan released a statement after the board meeting to also support a suspension of the gas tax — and to push for his proposal to provide tax relief to the state’s retirees.

“This report further proves that we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to advance substantial tax relief for our families, small businesses, and retirees,” Hogan said. “People across the country are being squeezed by surging inflation on everything from gas to groceries — Marylanders, especially our retirees, deserve and need this relief.”

The General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, is considering an array of tax-relief measures. For example, the House of Delegates has already passed a package of legislation to help working and middle class families, including cutting the state’s sales tax on goods like diapers, car seats and diabetic care products.

“With this revenue write up, I believe there is an opportunity for the state to make prudent investments to help Marylanders who need it most,” said Treasurer Dereck Davis, a Democrat who is a member of the state’s Board of Revenue Estimates.

The governor also expressed support for legislation that would end automatic annual increases in the state’s gas tax, based on inflation as measured by the consumer price index.

“We should not walk out of here and leave an automatic gas tax increase, not with what people are paying right now at the pump. It was a terrible idea in the first place and now with inflation and gas at record levels we need to stop it,” Sen. Michael Hough, a Frederick County Republican who is sponsoring the bill, told reporters Wednesday.

When combined with a $2.5 billion general fund balance from fiscal year 2021, Maryland has about $7.5 billion in excess revenue over a two-year span, the comptroller’s office said.

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