Moco Lawmakers Divided Over Tax Replacement
Montgomery County lawmakers are deeply divided over a proposal floated this week by Gov. Martin O'Malley to allow for the repeal of Maryland's new sales tax on computer services partly by imposing a surcharge on the income of millionaires. See the story in today's Metro section for more on the proposal.
Because about 40 percent of residents who would be charged the higher income tax rate reside in Montgomery, legislators from the county are split on whether to support the proposal.
Sen. Rona E. Kramer (D-Montgomery), who chairs the county's Senate delegation, said she wants the computer services tax repealed, but would prefer cuts in transportation spending than changes in the income tax structure.
"Montgomery County already does the yeoman's share of supporting the state budget," she said. "It's absolutely inappropriate for one jurisdiction, Montgomery County, to pick up the tab for 50 percent of one tax."
Del. Luis R.S. Simmons (D-Montgomery) said he is frustrated to see his county become the "last refuge of unimaginative people" during budget crises.
"The tax is always imposed on us," Simmons said, adding that he thinks state leaders perceive Montgomery as a land of wealthy suburbs that is immune to the social ills that require government spending. But he said much of the county is middle-class and struggling during the economic downturn.
"I'm not trying to give you gobbledygook, but if you take a cumulative effect of these tax increases, what you will get is a migration of people out of the county," Simmons said.
"It has nothing to do with defending the millionaires," he added. "I'm not a millionaire. I'm just concerned about us taking hits on many different fronts and the confluence of those is going to hobble our economy."
Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery), a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said he is "disinclined to change the income tax brackets."
"We worked hard on them and reached what we think is an appropriate compromise in the special session," Frick said.
But other Montgomery legislators said they favor a more progressive income tax structure, even if it disproportionately impacts their county.
"I have to represent all my constituents, not just the millionaires," said Del. Tom Hucker (D-Montgomery). "I think those folks can afford to pay more state income taxes, especially in the wake of enormous federal income tax cuts that they have benefited from for the last six years."
Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery) said he thinks lawmakers should step back and consider whether raising the tax rate is good public policy, irrespective of the consequences for his county.
"I understand that people say it would hit Montgomery County harder than some other jurisdictions, but we don't get taxed by jurisdiction," Frosh said. "I don't perceive it as a geographic issue."
-- Philip Rucker
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