ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan proclaimed the state as the first in the nation to suspend the state’s gas tax for 30 days amid the coronavirus pandemic and a global war.
Joining Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones, the governor signed a law that will give motorists a break from paying about 36 cents per gallon at the pump.
Lawmakers from the House of Delegates and Senate granted final approval Friday morning, which took about a week to get done after scheduling public hearings.
“I want to sincerely thank the legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle for coming together to swiftly and unanimously pass this emergency legislation,” Hogan said Friday inside the governor’s reception room in Annapolis. “It’s almost unheard of for a major piece of legislation to pass in such a short period of time with such universal, bipartisan support.”
Fuel prices began to increase for several weeks after Russia, a major global exporter of oil, invaded neighboring Ukraine. United States officials responded by imposing financial sanctions on Russia that included importing Russian oil.
As of Friday, motorists in Maryland paid an average of $4.17 per gallon.
The immediate gas tax suspension won’t put a major dent into their pockets. Filling up a 12-gallon tank of gas could cost about $4 less.
The state could lose nearly $100 million during what the state has labeled “holiday gas tax,” which helps fund the state’s transportation trust fund to repair roads, bridges and conduct transit projects.
Lawmakers pledged to use some of the $7.5 billion surplus money to help cover the loss in revenue.
For gas retailers, there isn’t legal authority for them to participate. However, the state will refund any retailers who paid 36 cents per gallon just before the holiday gas tax went into effect.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said “the hammer’s going to come down” on those businesses who don’t act in good faith to drop their gas prices.
Franchot suggested his office could revoke licenses of retailers who don’t participate, but he expressed optimism that wouldn’t happen and retailers would show their “patriotism” after he and his staff communicated with hundreds of business owners.
“They’re good people. They want to do the right thing,” he said. “We may get a little bit around the edges, but nothing that’s going to be interfering in how they’re going to benefit from this.”
Franchot used this example of “capitalism competition.”
“If I see a station that’s got gas for a penny less than the one across the street, I’ll go to that one and most people do,” he said.
After the enactment of the legislation, Franchot said a gas station in Annapolis decreased prices at the pump.
Other states are contemplating passing similar legislation such as neighboring Virginia, where Gov. Glenn Youngkin wants to suspend the gas tax for three months. He estimates the measure would save drivers 26 cents per gallon.
Back in Maryland, Jones said the 30-day tax suspension comes as a response to an extraordinary circumstance from Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
“When we’re in session, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and get caught up in the minutia of Maryland politics, but the rising spikes at the gas pump, at the grocery and elsewhere are hard to ignore,” she said. “They quickly remind us that we live in a global economy. We’re all connected.”