Tax Cut or Gimmick?
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr's announcement today that he would seek to rollback the state's property tax rate by 15 percent-- or 2 cents for every $100 of assessed value--prompted charges of election-year politics from, not surprisingly, his election-year rivals. The two leading Democratic candidates took jabs at the Republican governor for playing up a tax cut that does not make up for the nearly 5-cent property tax increase he initiated after taking office in 2003.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's campaign manager said the proposal to lower the rate to 11.2 cents is "not a tax cut."
"It just lessens the massive tax increase he has already imposed on Maryland families," said campaign manager Jonathan Epstein. "It's just an absurd thumping of one's chest."
Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan's campaign manager called the tax proposal a "gimmick."
"Bob Ehrlich has taken Maryland three steps back the past three years and now wants to take one step forward and tell Maryland voters they are making progress under his leadership," campaign chief Scott Arceneaux said in a news release. "Marylanders are smarter than that, and they won't fall for Bob Ehrlich's election year gimmicks."
The governor unveiled his plan at a senior center in Randallstown, not far from his hometown in Baltimore County. Ehrlich suggested that local governments consider following his lead by reducing the county rate by 15 percent if it was financially feasible.
But the Baltimore County Executive, a Democrat, was not receptive to his native son.
"The governor has no credibility on the property tax," said County Executive James T. Smith Jr. "His performance is just an indication to me that he's trying to rehabilitate his image on property taxes by shifting the focus to local governments."
Not so, according to press secretary Henry Fawell, who said the governor is just sticking to his promise from late 2003 to cut the property tax rate. Ehrlich also tried unsuccessfully last spring to slice one cent from the state rate.
"He's always been on the side of lower taxes and he fulfilled his commitment today," Fawell said.
Ann E. Marimow
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