Between The Lines

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There were a lot of mixed opinions express this week in advance of Governor Martin O’Malley signing the alcohol tax hike into law yesterday. Many noted how the time has come for an increase in the alcohol tax, the first increase since 1972. However, others pointed to it as another indicator the state’s lawmakers are out of touch and simply hurting small business in the state.

Others made some outlandish comments, such as a press release we received from the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative this week.

It said in part, “this measure, …, will save numerous lives by reducing underage drinking and alcohol abuse and will raise money that can be used to fund critical health care and community service needs.”

I believe that like I believe the state is going to use slots revenue to help fund education.

Speaking of ridiculous actions by the state, the proposal on the table to increase the Chesapeake Bay Bridge toll raised a lot of eyebrows this week.

For the record, this newspaper has suggested the state increase this toll for years as a way to help raise some money for transportation projects across the Eastern Shore. We suggested maybe a 50-cent increase, from the current $2.50, understanding it’s been decades since it’s been raised even a penny.

The state has other things in mind. Instead, the Maryland Transportation Authority wants to increase it to $5 later this year and to $8 in 2013. This is ridiculous and is analogous to using a sledgehammer to kill an ant.

Maryland motorists would likely accept without pause a modest quarter- or 50-cent increase in the toll because it’s been the same $2.50 for so long, but this kind of increase cannot be justified, even if the funds are needed for major transportation projects.

Yes, it’s a user fee and some of the new funding will go to pay for future bridge projects, but it’s not the motorists’ fault the state has been raiding its transportation funding accounts to balance the budget for years without a plan in place to restore the lost dollars.

Maryland lawmakers and those appointed officials who propose and support these types of ideas just do not get it.

It’s a bit of a bummer that Ocean City will not go a different direction with its Boardwalk surface this fall. While I think an all-wood surface was the only way to go here, it would have been nice to see the resort try something that would last longer than the traditional yellow pine.

City Engineer Terry McGean acknowledged losing sleep on this matter when it came to what he would propose to the Mayor and Council. Based on his presentation this week, McGean seems to have taken a liking to Timbersil, which is comprised of a combination of wood and glass and is more stable than yellow pine and requires little maintenance. However, what steered McGean away from was its riskiness, reporting to the council there’s little history of the product at commercial locations to justify the change. Another consideration was IPE, which is being used in Atlantic City and Coney Island, but McGean said the high expense caused him to not recommend it.

All in all, it’s difficult to argue with McGean’s proposal to stay with the current yellow pine, but on the other hand it would have been a wonderful marketing tool in next year’s post-Rodney campaign for Ocean City to say it’s using a new modern product on its Boardwalk.

Those in the know in the aeronautical world seem convinced the F-22 raptors will still be grounded over safety concerns by the time the Ocean City Air Show rolls around next month, but those disappointments are somewhat dashed with this week’s announcement that the B-2 Stealth Bomber will be flying over ocean city on Saturday of the event. That announcement could not have come at a better time, and I look forward to seeing that beast fly over us and being enveloped by its shadow.

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