ANNAPOLIS — Maryland lawmakers are starting to debate how much “severance tax” should be imposed on the natural gas that might be produced from the Marcellus Shale rock formation in Western Maryland.
By Megan Poinski
This is the second of four articles on PlanMaryland, the proposed state planning guidelines, that have stirred passionate opposition from many local officials.
To listen to the Department of Planning talk about PlanMaryland, the long-term development plan being drafted for the state, it does not represent a major policy shift.
“With PlanMaryland, we’re just trying to carry out what the whole state has said it wanted,” said Andrew Ratner, director of communications for the Maryland Department of Planning. Ratner said that the plan is built off of the 12 visions for economic growth, resource protection and planning policy that were drafted by a task force named by Gov. Martin O’Malley and codified by the General Assembly in 2009. The plan is nothing but a framework that syncs what departments are doing in the vein of smart growth, requiring no additional legislation to be implemented.
However, opponents to the plan feel otherwise.
“This represents a dramatic policy shift,” said Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin, who represents mostly rural Caroline, Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. “It targets all infrastructure growth, and urbanizes the suburban parts of the state.”
Sen. George Edwards said the money that could be raised probably wouldn’t benefit rural areas, which will bear the brunt of a gas tax increase.
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“There’s going to be a gas tax,” Miller said flatly in an address to Maryland business leaders meeting here. “Is it popular? No, [but] it is going to have to get done now.”