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No Answer Yet on Prince George's Phone Tax

Rosalind Helderman

So will the Prince George's County Council support County Executive Jack B. Johnson's proposal to raise the county's telephone tax from 8 to 11 percent?

Maybe yes, maybe no.

The council may have found a clever way to avoid agreeing to the tax but still adopt a spending plan tomorrow that fully funds the county's school system budget request.

The council held a committee meeting Monday to discuss the tax proposal, which Johnson has said is key to giving the county's school system full funding. Telephone companies have meanwhile complained the increase would make county phone taxes among the highest in the nation. And some residents who helped pass a 1996 amendment to the county charter that says politicians must put any county tax increase to public referendum believe the increase would be illegal unless put to countywide vote.

Many activists had assumed the council would take a position on the matter before it adopted the county's budget tomorrow, since Johnson has embedded the $17 million he predicts the tax hike will raise in his budget. They thought the council would have to accept the tax and the revenue, vote to reject the tax or agree to send it to referendum in 2008. Under either of the latter two options, no money would have been available from the increase this year, and people assumed the council would have had to find $17 million in cuts.

But the Council has found a third way. On Monday, they declared that a 1987 county law requires that tax increases be passed seperately from the budget. And that executives who assume increased taxes in their proposed budget should include a fall back plan that indicates what would be cut if the council rejected the tax. Council Chairmwoman Camille Exum (D-Seat Pleasant) said the council had not been given enough time to act on the tax prior to adopting the budget. (The exec's office submitted proposed legislation to the council on April 13.)

And so, she indicated the council will act on the tax at a future date. In the meantime, she said the council will likely adopt a budget that assumes the tax increase's revenues, but includes language suggesting that the revenue is contingent upon approval of the tax. If the tax is rejected, the shortfall will be dealt with at a future date.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  May 22, 2007; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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Comments

I don't recall Jack Johnson talking about raising the telephone tax in his contested Primary in 2006.

Posted by: He must have said it | May 22, 2007 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Easy solution. Get Vonage. They'll never catch up with you...and $25 a month unlimited calls to US and Canada is a great deal! Tell them I sent you.

Posted by: BG from PG | May 22, 2007 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Better solution, get SKYPE. $29.95 a year, yes a year, less than $3 a month. The more who get it, the more who benefit.

Posted by: Count Bobulescu | May 24, 2007 12:20 AM | Report abuse

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