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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Taxes: The campaign to raise our taxes resumes.

(Posted 19 Dec 2006)
Despite some partial and insincere denials, Maryland Democrats have resumed their campaign to raise taxes on most or all Marylanders. Gov.-elect O'Malley spoke out on the tax issue on December 18. Press reports of what he actually said about taxes seem to vary considerably. Associated Press reports suggest that both O'Malley and Sen. President Miller promised no tax increases. But the Washington Times report includes additional quotes from both politicians, with O'Malley waffling on tax increases proposed by others, and Miller actually calling for higher taxes. And the Baltimore Sun discusses the issue as one of tax reform. Meanwhile, Gazette columnist Barry Rascovar has published a strong argument for raising taxes.

O'Malley Says No New Taxes Next Year.
wtopnews.com, 18 Dec 2006 (Wyatt, AP)
(condensed version on several other broadcast media web sites).
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Marylanders won't have new taxes to pay next year, even though state government faces a looming deficit, Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley said Monday.

O'Malley, a Democrat, met with Democratic lawmakers in Annapolis to set priorities for the legislative term that begins in January. State tax experts have predicted a structural deficit, meaning state spending will eventually outstrip tax revenues if nothing changes, but O'Malley told reporters before the meeting that he would not suggest new taxes this year.

"I don't anticipate putting in any new revenue sources right now" into the budget, O'Malley said. The governor will get more advice tomorrow from a panel of fiscal experts and lawmakers who meet annually to recommend state spending levels.
[. . .]
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller told reporters that he would again support slot machine gambling to boost state revenues. But he cautioned reporters not to look for tax proposals just because of the potential of future deficits, especially with a new governor.

"It doesn't mean because he's a Democrat that he wants to raise taxes," Miller said.

Glendening Aide Picked To Oversee Transportation
Post, 19 Dec 2006 (Wagner).
. . . Before heading into a three-hour "retreat" with legislative leaders yesterday, O'Malley told reporters that he will not propose raising taxes during his first year in office, despite looming budget shortfalls. But O'Malley, the outgoing Baltimore mayor, said he is willing to listen to other views from lawmakers.

"I think that all of us should come to the table with our minds open," O'Malley said when asked about calls by Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and others to raise the state's gas tax to pay for transportation projects.
Miller says Maryland taxpayers may get bill for O'Malley plans.
Times, 19 Dec 2006 (Miller).
ANNAPOLIS -- State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. yesterday said tax increases -- including sales and gasoline taxes -- need to be considered if Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley is to keep his campaign promises on education, transportation and health care.

"Somehow, someplace, somebody is going to have to pay for it, and it is going to be the Maryland taxpayer," Mr. Miller, Southern Maryland Democrat, told reporters as he entered Loews Annapolis Hotel for a meeting with legislative leaders and Mr. O'Malley.

But Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat, said he does not plan to propose higher taxes -- although the Democrat-controlled legislature may offer its own ideas. He declined to pledge not to increase state sales and income taxes as did Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican who lost his re-election bid last month to Mr. O'Malley.

"I didn't make that one pledge in the campaign," said Mr. O'Malley, who is serving a second term as Baltimore's mayor. "I don't plan to introduce any taxes, [but] I want to keep an open mind. I hope we can all keep an open mind."
[. . .]
Last year, Mr. O'Malley increased city taxes by $30 million, including a higher property-tax rate and new taxes on cell phones, telephones and energy.
[. . .]
After the Nov. 7 election restored the Democrat's almost complete control of state government, some of the party's top elected officials suggested increasing Maryland's 23.5-cents-a-gallon tax on gasoline or increasing the cigarette tax from $1 to $2 a pack.

Mr. O'Malley has not endorsed either proposal.

Mr. Miller said a higher gasoline tax may be necessary to beef up the Transportation Trust Fund to stave off highway gridlock.

The Senate president also suggested raising the state sales tax, though he acknowledged it would be unpopular with voters.
Md. tax reform gains ground; Increases, cuts envisioned to meet long-term demands.
Sun, 19 Dec 2006 (Green).
Momentum is building in Annapolis for a comprehensive overhaul of Maryland's revenue structure -- possibly including increases to some taxes and cuts to others -- as a way to boost state revenue and solve the state's long-term budget problems.

Legislative leaders met yesterday with Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley in Annapolis to discuss an agenda for the coming year, and top Democrats in the General Assembly indicated beforehand that they believe the tax structure -- essentially unchanged since the 1960s despite attempts at reform -- needs to be altered to reflect shifts in the state's economy.

O'Malley indicated that he does not intend to call for higher taxes in the legislative session that begins in January. But he left open the possibility of some additional taxes or tax-law changes the following year.
[. . .]
Some Democratic leaders also said they are skeptical about the plausibility of any tax overhaul that amounts to an increase in what citizens pay. Sen. Ulysses Currie, a Prince George's Democrat who chairs the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said he doesn't think the public will stand for a tax increase.

"There's no appetite for it," Currie said. "We've got to look first at spending before we take a look at revenues."
Tackling the bottom line.
Gazette, 15 Dec 2006 (Rascovar).

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