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O’Malley defeated on gas tax, wind energy

ANNAPOLIS – Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley lost two of his biggest legislative battles this year – his push for a gas tax and a bill to require more investment in wind energy – and the General Assembly watered down other bills.

O’Malley’s proposal to add a 6 percent sales tax to the cost of gas never made it out of committee to either the House or Senate for debate. The tax would have added roughly 18-cents-per-gallon to the cost of gas once fully implemented.

The legislature also rejected, for the second year in a row, O’Malley’s proposal that would require utility companies to buy more wind energy. The bill passed 88-47 in the House of Delegates but stalled in the Senate Finance Committee.

O’Malley said he would push the wind measure again next year, pointing out that it failed by only one vote in the finance committee.

O’Malley underscored his legislative “wins” on Monday, highlighting the legislature’s passage of same-sex marriage legislation and approval of his measure to double thestate’s water fees from $30 annually to $60 annually.

Revenues from the water fees, also known as the “flush tax,” will go to the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund.

O’Malley also touted the General Assembly’s passage of a measure designed to curb the use of septic systems, though the bill that the legislature passed was substantially different from the one he proposed.

The septic system bill, as originally written, would have given the state power to regulate where new septic systems could be installed. The General Assembly passed a pared-down version that gave regulatory powers to county officials instead.

House and Senate negotiators reached a deal on a budget package that would raise taxes on residents earning more than $100,000, which O’Malley had advocated, but the full chambers had not voted on the plan two hours before the session’s close. O’Malley had proposed reducing exemptions and deductions for individuals making more than $100,000, but the budget deal hammered out Monday night would raise tax rates instead.

In the final hours of the session, O’Malley continued pushing for his gas tax, urging the legislature to reconsider it or find some other way to raise hundreds of millions of dollars annually for the state’s transportation needs.

“Of course we have yet to address the transportation funding needs of our state,” O’Malley said. He floated the possibility of raising the state’s sales tax by one percentage point and directing the revenues to Maryland’s transportation fund.

The governor’s late push for new transportation revenues has spurred talk of a special session to address the state’s funding needs.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, blasted O’Malley and the General Assembly for considering so many new taxes and fees.

“I believe the governor’s legacy from this session, and frankly, for this term, is going to be slot machines, casinos and unaffordably high taxes,” Franchot said.