County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) was in attendance last night when Gov. Martin O’Malley, House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller announced their gas tax plan in Annapolis.

Today his office released a statement in which the longtime supporter of raising the gas tax for the first time since 1992 praised the state’s political leadership.

Leggett and county leaders say the proposal, which would effectively raise the price of gas by 2 cents a gallon starting in July and another 7 cents per gallon starting next July, is necessary to restore the state’s dwindling Transportation Trust Fund and provide dollars to match the federal government’s support of the Purple Line light rail.

Raising gas prices is politically unpopular, with polls showing a clear majority of Marylanders are against it. Leggett said it was even more unpopular in 2006, when he first proposed it and O’Malley’s support was less clear:
“I am very pleased that Governor O’Malley, Senate President Miller, and Speaker Busch have joined forces to insure that the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund has the needed resources to maintain and improve our State’s roads and transportation systems and grow jobs and business into the future.

“Several years ago, I virtually stood alone in advocating for an increase in the state’s gasoline tax — which hasn’t been increased since 1992, when George Bush Senior was President. It wasn’t popular then, and it isn’t popular now. But we needed it then, and we still need it now.

“This will help replenish the State’s Transportation Trust Fund and assist counties throughout the state to advance major transportation infrastructure. Inaction costs commuters even more time stuck in congestion and costs the State jobs and investment.”
The proposal is projected to raise $3.4 billion in transportation funding over the next five years, according to the Washington Post.