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Maryland GOP Takes Aim At Progressive Alliance

Senate Republicans in Maryland are attempting to use a poll commissioned by a liberal coalition to undermine possible tax increase proposals from Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).

At a press conference last week, members of the Alliance for Tax Fairness argued that O'Malley and lawmakers should look to upper-income residents and corporations to help close a looming budget shortfall of nearly $1.5 billion next year

The coalition released a poll showing support for those moves.

But Senate Republicans pointed yesterday to two other findings in the poll: that a majority of Marylanders oppose both a 1-cent increase in the sales tax and a 12-cent increase in the gas tax. O'Malley has said he is considering support for increases in both levies as the state tries to bridge a $1.5 billion budget shortfall and generate more money for transportation projects -- but he has offered no concrete proposals and is not likely to back a gas tax increase of that magnitude, aides say.

"The deception employed by advocates for tax increases is utterly amazing," Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley (R-Frederick) said in a statement. "They would have the public believe there is widespread support for tax increases. In fact, a close reading of their own data shows the public overwhelmingly opposes the very taxes that would generate the most revenue for the state."

Sean Dobson, executive director of Progressive Maryland and a leader of the Alliance for Tax Fairness, said he was "flattered" by the attention of Brinkley and other Republicans. But, Dobson said, his group has hardly been deceptive. The poll is posted on the group's Web site for all to see, Dobson said, and his group is not a fan of raising the sales or gas taxes because "they stick it to the average Joe."

The Senate Republicans also took a shot at the pollster used by the coalition, Goodwin Simon Victoria Research, calling it a "partisan Democrat research firm."

"There is even a cartoon on its Web site of an elephant being attacked by two donkeys," said Senate Minority Whip Allan H. Kittleman (R-Howard).

By John Wagner  |  August 2, 2007; 6:05 AM ET
Categories:  John Wagner  
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why doesn't Progressive Maryland put a question in their poll as to how Marylanders would feel about CUTTING THEIR SALES TAX 2 cents? No state has ever cut a sales tax. There is strong support for doing so. Entrepreneurs (progressive and otherwise) would then locate in Maryland and hire progressives and others.

Posted by: Robin Ficker of Robin Realty | August 2, 2007 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Wow, now thats a "novel" idea: Cut taxes in the face of a budget deficit. Is there any better way to align yourself with the Bush administration? It boggles the mind! I am just one tax payer, but my suggestion would be to raise the gas tax half the proposed amount (which would not cause a stampede to buy gas in VA - it will cost more to drive to VA) and leave the sales tax alone. The rest of the deficit can be made back by cancelling or merely trying to actually justify the $3 billion ICC project. What is the purpose for building that again?

Posted by: Donny | August 2, 2007 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Progressive Maryland has joined a coalition called The Alliance of Tax Fairness, which is composed of varied organizations, including environmentalists, labor unions, and government watchdog groups. Each of these organizations has different ideas on how the state should surmount its fiscal crisis. But there are two basic principles we agree on:

1. "$1.5 billion" is not a magic number that solves Maryland's woes because this amount merely plugs the budget hole. As such, $1.5 billion would merely maintain current, inadequate levels of public investment that have led to a rising poverty rate, increasing numbers of medically uninsured, ballooning tuition at public universities, and an unhealthy Bay.

2. As lawmakers seek ways to raise the revenue Maryland needs to tackle these festering problems, they should be guided by the principle of fairness. That means they should start by asking the wealthiest individuals to pay their fair share of taxes; close the tax loopholes by which half of the biggest corporations in our state pay no income tax whatsoever; make developers pay for more of the environmental damage they cause; etc.

The State Senate Republican Caucus' criticisms of the Alliance's poll are ridiculous. First, our poll (located at shows that only 1/3 of Marylanders want to solve the deficit only through cuts with no new revenue (i.e., the Republican caucus' approach). A much larger percentage of Marylanders -- 50% -- wants a combination of cuts and new revenue. Then, the rest of the poll explores that finding more deeply and clearly reveals that overall Marylanders believe the fiscal shortfall should be solved much more by new revenue than by cuts, and that revenue should be raised based on ability to pay.

The poll shows that Marylanders favor new revenue because they value the services they get from state government, especially schools and health care. Indeed, Marylanders want to invest more in these and many other state services.

The Senate Republicans correctly point out that an extra penny on the sales tax and especially a hike in the gas tax are unpopular. But they somehow forget to mention that asking high-income individuals to pay more in taxes polls astronomically high as does closing corporate tax loopholes and abolishing special-interest tax breaks for big corporations. These progressive revenue raisers could bring in more than $1 billion in revenue for health care and schools - and make Maryland's regressive tax structure a bit less unfair.

Speaking not for the Alliance but for my own organization, Progressive Maryland will judge lawmakers by the full revenue package they enact and whether it is a good deal for working families. That means the package must:

• generate more than $1.5 billion so Maryland can invest in expanded health care, safe streets, and good schools; and

• overall tilt progressive, not regressive.

Maryland taxes corporate income and income of wealthy individuals at some of the lowest effective levels in the country, yet we have many unmet needs in funding education, health care, and protecting the environment. By more than a 3:1 margin, Marylanders want lawmakers to go beyond plugging the hole in the budget and create a fairer tax system that asks big corporations and wealthy individuals to invest in Maryland's future.

Sean Dobson
Executive Director
Progressive Maryland

Posted by: Sean Dobson | August 2, 2007 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I am a high school student and I've seen firsthand how budget cuts have affected a school's environment. A budget cut means less space, higher classroom ratio, and sometimes - as is the case for my school - holes in the gym walls.

Enforcing a fairer tax system, or, to quote Mr. Dobson, "asking big corporations and wealthy individuals to invest in Maryland's future", is a necessary step we need to take to level out the playing field. I don't think it's too much to ask the privileged to give up a small portion of their wealth to benefit the community as a whole. More than generosity, this is a responsibility that we all share as citizens.

Posted by: Nancy | August 2, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

It's not a 1 cent increase in sales tax that they want, it's an increase from 5% to 6%. Call it what it is. Donny, if you like high taxes and substandard health care, move to Canada. The rest of us would prefer NOT to pay for Maryland's poor fiscal planning at each point of sale or gas fill up.

Posted by: BG from PG | August 2, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

So, on the sales tax - you agree with me BG?. Like I said - leave the sales tax alone. Common ground is good. We may still argue about adding $0.05/gallon to the gas tax, but on the $3 billion ICC project. I'm still interested to listen to anyone who can justify (in any sense) this juggernaut. MD cannot afford to commit that much money to unjustified projects. I'm sure many disagree with me, but why. Also, does anyone question the cost-justification of the $ 3 billion ICC?

Posted by: Donny | August 2, 2007 1:29 PM | Report abuse

The tax prices in Maryland are already astronomical with 23 cents worth of taxes added to an already high gas price per gallon. We should not have 12 cent increase on gas prices that are already astronomical. This would cause a public outrage in a Maryland where we already have high gas prices. Instead of increasing gas prices, taxes should be increased for those that can afford it, the wealthly.

The weathly need to stop recieving federal tax cuts that they do not need. Instead, we need to give these tax cuts to the people that actually need them. In fact, we can get much more taxes from those that are wealthy than those that are not because they have would have to pay more taxes in general in total accounting to one billion which would severely help to reduce our current deficit.

If we just promote tax quality we can provide lower gas prices and sales tax, even less congested schools for high school students like me. Please eliminate tax cuts for the wealthy. They are not fair to the rest of us and not necessary.

Posted by: Sara Friedman | August 2, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

As a Montgomery County teen I can tell you that portable(trailer) classrooms are very difficult to learn in. When growing up, even in Potomac, we had trailers as classrooms. In elementary school i remember using the cafeteria as a gym which was quite troublesome. Having to set up basketball hoops limited exercise time. If the budget cuts do not stop, education is in jeopardy.

Posted by: Andrew Tang | August 2, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Donny, how would you feel as a small, progressive Maryland businessman, not far from the border of Delaware, which has no sales tax at all, if the Governor told you that he wanted to increase Marland's sales tax. I eagerly await your reply.

Posted by: Robin Ficker of Robin Realty | August 2, 2007 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I attend a public school in Montgomery County and I believe the schools are not adequately funded. When I attended elemetary school a few years back there were only a few trailers to supply classrooms for the ever increasing number of students. As I grew up I could see that more and more trailers were being used as classrooms. Even now in high school I have to take a physics class in a small room located in the cafateria. Any budget cuts will lead to an unfavorable learning environment. By putting this off this mild problem could escalate into a major crisis. It's important that our politicans think about these problems when addressing Maryland's budget issues.

Posted by: KyungYi, rising Senior at Winston Churchill HS | August 2, 2007 2:31 PM | Report abuse

when I attended a Montomery County elementary school, there was a wonderful principal and great teachers. Now there is another wonderful principal, the same number of students, great teachers, and two vice principals. Legislators need to keep that in mind when considering comments from students who have no responsibility.

Posted by: Overhead | August 2, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Ficker, it appears you are mis-reading posts - you are actually in agreement with BG and myself. No one wants to raise the Maryland sales tax on this blog - it should now be clear once again. Now that we're all firmly sitting around the same campfire, where will the money come view is that some should come from new revenue (perhaps a smaller than proposed gas tax) and the rest will have to come from budget cuts. I say leave essential services alone (incl education) and cancel the $3 billion ICC project. Thats my response - I'd rather not repeat my points again though. Lets not rehash to usually raise very good points, but lets just raise them once. OK.

Posted by: Donny | August 2, 2007 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Yes Virginia, cuts in taxes actually do boost tax revenues. Ronald Reagan proved that almost 25 years ago.

All it takes is a little basic economics and history, which Leftists just can't manage as it requires reading and understanding some very big words.

Progressive is what Communists in the 1950's called themselves to try to fool people into thinking they weren't Communists. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Posted by: Rufus | August 3, 2007 11:00 AM | Report abuse

With all due respect, Rufus, its arguable that "Reaganomics" was an utter failure, that produced a huge deficit - and it took athe Clinton administration to produce a balanced federal budget. The fact is that VA is in dire financial straights and must now charge thousand dollar fees on speeding tickets to make up the revenue shortfall. Don't know much about communism, but it seems clear that freedom, and government services are not free and never will be. Therefore we pay taxes - its my hope that states and countries can spend as close to what they collect as possible.

I think Reagan actually credited a Psychic with his economic policies. Seriously. Anyone else old enough to remember what that was about. That was actual news back in the early eighties.

There's got to be a balanced approach to taxes and spending that will get MD back to a nice even keel (or were we ever there?).

Posted by: Donny | August 3, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Sean Dobson's post is the classic limousine liberal manifesto. Isn't it ironic that while he and his ilk bang the drum about low tax rates for wealthy, they neglect to remember that the wealthy lawyers otherwise known as Maryland Democrats in Annapolis are the ones maintaining the status quo.

As for these government services that he claims are so badly under funded, I challenge him to name one goverment program that is run efficeintly. He can't. His dog and pony show about limiting taxes to the wealthy is disingenuous. He wants everyone, right down to the family struggling to make ends meet to pay a little more for his daydream vision of Utopia which will never exist.

Sean, taking more money out of working people's pockets by way of taxes and decreasing the value of someone's dollar as a result is "regressive", not "progressive". Perhaps you guys should think about changing your name.

Posted by: BG from PG | August 3, 2007 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Good thing that the rants from BG from PG or Ficker don't reflect the will of the Maryland populace. These fat cats are already enjoying more of their ill-gotten federal tax relief. RAISE TAXES!!

Posted by: Willing To Pay | August 6, 2007 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Oh yes, please raise my taxes. People using Independence Cards should be able to flip the old $100 in groceries for $50 cash trick more than just once a week (and many of you out there known what I'm referring to).

Posted by: BG from PG | August 6, 2007 6:34 PM | Report abuse

Willing to pay seems to refer to the Bush tax cuts. I assume that when they expire, he will advocate going back to the current tax rates.

The poll results are a real shocker as well. "We don't want a gas or sales tax increase, just more taxes on "the rich". Let someone else pay, not me. I guess that 40% of one's income is not their "fair share".

Posted by: Unwilling to pay more | August 11, 2007 12:14 AM | Report abuse

From Dobson's post above: The poll shows that Marylanders favor new revenue because they value the services they get from state government, especially schools and health care. Indeed, Marylanders want to invest more in these and many other state services
Translation: Many Marylander's want to invest OTHER PEOPLE's MONEY in these and many other services that THEY will consume while OTHERS pay for them. There is a term for Dobson's philosophy, it's SOCIALISM, pure and simple.
I worked extremely hard to become a Physician. Who is Dobson to tell me that the nearly HALF of my income that I pay in taxes is not my "fair share"? Who is he to tell me what my ability to pay is. I EARNED THIS MONEY THROUGH MY VERY HARD WORK. It is not his to redistribute to those who pay the least in taxes and use the most in services already!!!
Of course, he would no doubt be happy to lower my tax bracket by forcing me to perform my professional services for next to nothing in via some single payor socialist system thus eliminating my tax worries!

Posted by: Unwilling to pay more | August 11, 2007 12:26 AM | Report abuse

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