Tempers flared Friday afternoon following the debate and final vote by the House of Delegates on a proposal to raise the gas tax in Maryland.
When the final vote was taken, the House approved the bill 78-56 but the actual outcome, and roll call vote, remains a matter of contention amidst accusations from Republicans that the debate and final vote were ended too quickly.
The bill would increase the state's tax on gas by more than 20 cents to 43.7 cents per gallon on July 2016. The tax would increase to 44.6 cents per gallon if the federal government fails to pass an Internet sales tax.
The tax is also tied to the consumer price index, which would allow for automatic increases without any additional legislative action. Those increases are capped at 8 percent annually and do not go down if the consumer price index decreases in any given year.
Also in the bill is a $3.50 increase in the fee for vehicle registration.
The fees will go to offset an increase in salaries offered to pilots for the Maryland State Police. The agency has 11 vacancies within its 50 pilot positions, according to the review of the bill.
The base pilot salary under the proposal would increase to $70,000 and the plan would cover the cost of hiring 20 additional pilots based on a review provided by the state Department of Legislative Services. Maintenance technicians would see their base salary increase to $60,000 as part of the proposal.
The bill also included:
- $60 million over three years for the Sen. William H. Amoss Fire, Rescue, Ambulance fund.
- A $2 per hour salary increase for field instructors at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute
- More than $11 million over four years for a new communications system for the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services.
- A requirement that the governor spend nearly $400 million to comply with the Watershed Implementation Plan over five years.
The bill now moves to the Senate with about two weeks before the session is scheduled to end.