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Friday, February 06, 2009

Update: Jack Johnson's contempt for the voters and county charter

Comment: Although the media have reported on Jack Johnson's continuing attempts to raise taxes, reporting on spending issues has been weak.

Most reporting seems to be based on what Johnson says, or on the reactions of a relatively limited group of people.

Virtually every news report about county's fiscal situation begins by uncritically quoting Jack Johnson. I have yet to read a report that discusses or examines the accuracy of Johnson's extreme claims that without higher taxes he "would have to devastate our government," . . . "We just don't have the money to operate our government.".

We have seen a few reports on Johnson's junkets to Africa, on contracts for his cronies, and on large payouts to the victims of police misconduct, but no independent in-depth reporting that looks critically at all county spending, connects all the dots, explains how Johnson got the county into this mess, or explores all the options available for dealing with the problem.

Johnson Pushing Property Tax Bump;Executive Warns of Layoffs.
Post, 6 Feb 2009 (Wiggins ).
Desperate to raise money for basic county services, Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson is asking state lawmakers to approve a bill that would raise the size of annual property tax increases.
* * *
The County Council has not taken a position on the proposals, according to Chairman Marilynn Bland (D-Clinton).

Thirty years ago, voters in Prince George's created some of the country's strictest barriers to tax increases by imposing a cap on property taxes and placing a requirement in the county charter that tax increases must be approved by voters.

Judy Robinson, a supporter of property tax caps, said Johnson is trying to circumvent the charter by proposing changes to the homestead tax credit.
* * *
Prince George's House Delegation Chairwoman Melony G. Griffith (D) said she introduced the legislation as a courtesy to Johnson. She said her sponsorship does not imply that she supports the bill.
* * *
Last year, Johnson tried to raise the local telephone tax from 8 percent to 11 percent of monthly bills to generate $17 million a year for schools. The tax would have cost residents as much as an additional $1.50 per bill, according to county officials. In November, voters overwhelmingly rejected the idea in a referendum.

"Doesn't that tell you how willing people are to have new taxes?" Robinson asked

(Posted 6 Feb 2009)

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