ANNAPOLIS – Starting July 1, registering a car in Maryland could cost $3 more in motor vehicle registration fees per year to pay for emergency medical services.
With approval from the Maryland Senate Wednesday, 39-5, the bill needs only Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s signature to become law.
Under the measure, drivers will pay an $11 surcharge, up from $8, in addition to regular motor vehicle registration fees, which are $70, $83.50 and $97, depending on a car’s weight.
The House of Delegates passed the bill March 23, 112-25.
The governor has not made any decisions on bills he will sign, said Raquel Guillory, Glendening’s spokeswoman.
“The citizens in all parts of the state benefit because we have an Emergency Medical System Operations Fund,” said Sen. Barbara Hoffman, D- Baltimore. “I hope none of us ever need it, but if we do, we have it.”
The fund provides emergency services to Marylanders, including medical helicopter flights from accident scenes, through the cooperation of police, volunteer and career firefighters, and emergency medical service providers, such as doctors, nurses and hospital administrators.
“I have no problem voting for this increase,” said Sen. Larry Haines, R- Carroll. “I’m voting for a small insurance premium – less than a penny a day.”
Opponents argued the surcharge unfairly taxes people when there is a government surplus. They also said Glendening should have included the fund in his budget.
“The appropriate way to fund this is general revenue,” said Sen. Andrew Harris, R-Baltimore County. “The executive made us play chicken on this. And maybe our backs are against the wall. This is a tax.”
Harris unsuccessfully offered a floor amendment Tuesday to increase fines on traffic violations by $15, instead of adding the surcharge.
Sen. Alex Mooney, R-Frederick, said Maryland vehicle owners should not have to pay for the governor’s irresponsibility.
“This is wrong,” said Mooney. “It’s typical of what (the governor) does.”
While Sen. Walter Baker, D-Cecil, voted for the surcharge, he said it unfairly targets those who own cars. He pointed out that it would not affect people who ride the Metro.
“This is a targeted tax, and targeted taxes are wrong,” Baker said.
The fund has not been increased in 10 years, said Hoffman. Bill sponsor Sen. Thomas Middleton, D-Charles, said the expansion of several emergency services programs constituted the increase.
“It was the best way to fund this thing,” said Sen. Jennie Forehand, D- Montgomery. “We’re lucky to have a really good emergency system. For $3, that insurance is always there.”