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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Slots & Taxes: What our legislators are saying (part 4)

(Posted 24 Oct 2007)
Special session starts Monday.
Sentinel, 23 Oct 2007 (Samuel).

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"I think the strongest part of this package is that we going to be closing corporate loopholes," said Del. Benjamin Barnes (D-Dist. 21).

County legislators praised the governor's plans to reform the income tax. Barnes said that reforming income taxes would levy more taxes to individuals and families earning $200,000 or more while those earning $40,000 or less would receive a break.

"That will help them deal with an increase in the sales tax," he said. The sales tax is another tax that the governor hopes to reform with the special session.

County legislators are also pleased that O'Malley wants to protect education funding and increase health care access with a $1 tax increase on tobacco produces.

While any county legislators are favor of the plan's tax cuts, there is some skepticism to other issues in plan.

Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Dist. 47) said the governor's plan to cuts property taxes, a fund long used to pay off the state's debts, would not help the state get out of debt.

"The cuts will bring us back where we are now," Ivey said. Del. Tawanna Gaines (D-Dist. 22) said keeping the property tax the same may is providing the state some additional padding.

"As long as we have a lot of money to pay that debt, there's nothing wrong with extra money," she said.

There is also still strong dissent surrounding the governor's proposal to bring slots to Maryland.

"I think it's a stretch if it's going to happen at all," Sen. Paul Pinskey (D-Dist. 22) said. "If the governor wants it, he's going to have to find the votes. I'm not going to help." Del. Justin Ross (D-Dist. 22) is also opposed to helping the governor on slots.

"I certainly will never vote for it," Ross said.

While many of the county legislation said they are opposed to the slots, some believe the passage of legislation was possible. Barnes said he too is opposed to slots, but felt it was "highly likely" that there would be a slots legislation of some kind.

"I don't want to be naïve," he said. Ivey, also a slots opponent, said she would not rule out the possibility of slots. Ivey said she would consider them, "if it's not in Prince George's County."

The answer, county delegates say, is to put the issue before state county residents. "The proposal of a referendum makes sense," Sen. James Rosapepe (D-Dist. 21) said. "Let the people have a voice in what is best. That will settle it once and for all."

There's not telling what will come out of the special session. In his haste to take action, Pinskey said he hopes that O'Malley will seek compromise.

"You're not going to please everybody," he said.

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