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MoCo's Anti-Tax Measure Still Ahead in Vote Count

After the first round of counting absentee ballots, Montgomery County's anti-tax measure is now leading by more than 4,000 votes.

The measure, sponsored by low-tax activist Robin Ficker, would require a unanimous vote by the nine-member County Council to exceed the local limit on property tax revenue, instead of the current seven vote requirement.

After last week's election, Ficker was holding on to a slim lead of several hundred votes. Marjorie Roher, a spokeswoman for the Board of Elections, said the final outcome will not be announced until next week. There are still as many as 16,000 absentee ballots to be counted later this week and on Wednesday, election officials will begin counting provisional ballots.

That Ficker's efforts are gaining traction this year is a sign of voter unease with how local elected officials are handling the county's budget problems. Council members have surpassed the local limit on property tax revenue four times since the cap was approved by voters in 1990, including this year. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) projects a shortfall for 2010 of $250 million.

By Ann Marimow  |  November 10, 2008; 10:50 AM ET
Categories:  Ann Marimow  
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Comments

We homeowners thank the voters. So far the absentee vote has been 18,214 for or 55.38% and 14,673 opposed.

Posted by: robinfickerofrobinrealty | November 10, 2008 11:18 AM | Report abuse

The County Council has been slow to realize that citizens are not ATMs.

Posted by: RedBird27 | November 10, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Good work, Robin Ficker.

Posted by: josiahSchmoe | November 10, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

THANK YOU ROBIN...THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!

Posted by: BRIANSWARTZ | November 10, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

For far too long, the Montgomery County Government - including the Executive and Council - has been a "wholly owned subsidiary" of the County's employee unions. it's time our elected officials reversed this gross imbalance, and acted as the managers of (not the agents for) the Couunty's overpaid and overbenefitted work force.

Posted by: mncwva | November 10, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Excellent work, Mr Ficker!

We, the taxpayers, thank you!

Stop by http://www.mocotaxoutrage.org sometime and leave a comment.

Posted by: thardman | November 10, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Ten years from now, when there's no more curbside leaf collection, when police and fire stations are experiencing massive cutbacks, when the world-class MoCo schools have dropped considerably, when local community centers no longer have extensive after school youth programs, when businesses stop bringing jobs to MoCo because there's not enough money for local utility and road subsidies, and a million other things, you can thank Mr. Ficker for saving you what probably amounts to $100/yr.

Thankfully, by the time the effects are really felt, my kids will be off to college, and I can enjoy the extra few bucks myself. Great job, voters!

Posted by: dkorn | November 10, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

dkorn, maybe MoCo shouldn't have spent themselves into this hole to begin with.

Posted by: reiflame1 | November 10, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Mark D. Fennel was the Republican Nominee in the recent May 13, Special Election for County Council.

A cornerstone of my campaign was supporting Robin Ficker's Ballot Question.

What's wrong with this picture?

1.) All 9 members of the County Council made public statements in opposition to Robin's Ballot question. Yet, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Green Party members, Libertarians and Constitution Party members stood united in support of it; that is, voted for change.

2.) All 9 members of the County Council are Democrats, a monopoly on power like they have in Cuba, or had in the former-Soviet Union. Yet, approximately 33.33% of the voters are Republican, just not concentrated in a specific area to elect a member of the GOP.

The answer: Out of touch politicians. Who are more interested in delivering political paybacks in the form of 30% salary increases for teachers, and Montgomery County employees than representing their constituents.

Mark D. Fennel, Republican Nominee in the recent May 13, 2008 Special Election for County Council.

Posted by: mfennel1 | November 10, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Time to get spending under control, MoCo. Thank you, Robin. I like MoCo, but for anyone who thinks the services and schools are superior to, say, Fairfax County, you're deluding yourself. Just for fun, you may want to take some time to calculate the property and income taxes you would pay in NoVa versus MoCo -- you will be shocked.

-- A proud Democratic supporter of the ballot measure

Posted by: jonnydoe1234 | November 10, 2008 2:20 PM | Report abuse

There is a subtle distinction between raising taxes and the process that decides whether to raise taxes.
This ballot question comes at a time when many people are under financial pressure and feel dismay at the thought of an increase in taxes. For that reason, I think many people voted for the change in process as a way to vote against an increase in taxes, and I think this is a mistake.

This ballot question was _not_ a question of whether taxes should or should not be raised. It was a question about how our county council votes. I think the nine county council members are all opposed to this questions because it means that any one county council member has veto power over the budget, a power not even the county executive currently enjoys. If even one member of the council decides to hold out in order to negotiate for support to their own projects, this question allows that to happen. Frankly, in a fiscal emergency, the county council should have the power to raise the taxes without having to resort to even less palatable options.

The county budget will be a challenge in the coming years as we try to hold up high standards for not just education, but county services, infrastructure, and land use planning even as the county has less money in the budget to work with. And yes, the council did raise taxes an unpalatable 13% last year. However, the current law requires 7 out of 9 member to agree, a better than 2/3 majority, before leveraging taxes above inflation. Isn't this enough?

Posted by: lidoffad | November 10, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Well gee you keep voting in Democrats what do you expect Monkey County?

Posted by: FLvet | November 10, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Lidoffad,

I just have 1 thing to say.

WHAT!!!!!!??????????

I've never read more talking around in circles B. S.

Game over, you lost.

Mark D. Fennel

Posted by: mfennel1 | November 10, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

THE OUTRAGE come from all the well to do..

FICKER is one of those co called modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

Never seen him complain once about the excessive Federal spending that his Bush Neocons which has trickeled down to all counties and states. Or the horrible war in Iraq..

Fei Hu

Posted by: Fei_Hu | November 10, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

There is a subtle distinction between raising taxes and the process that decides whether to raise taxes.
This ballot question comes at a time when many people are under financial pressure and feel dismay at the thought of an increase in taxes. For that reason, I think many people voted for the change in process as a way to vote against an increase in taxes, and I think this is a mistake.

This ballot question was _not_ a question of whether taxes should or should not be raised. It was a question about how our county council votes. I think the nine county council members are all opposed to this questions because it means that any one county council member has veto power over the budget, a power not even the county executive currently enjoys. If even one member of the council decides to hold out in order to negotiate for support to their own projects, this question allows that to happen. Frankly, in a fiscal emergency, the county council should have the power to raise the taxes without having to resort to even less palatable options.

The county budget will be a challenge in the coming years as we try to hold up high standards for not just education, but county services, infrastructure, and land use planning even as the county has less money in the budget to work with. And yes, the council did raise taxes an unpalatable 13% last year. However, the current law requires 7 out of 9 member to agree, a better than 2/3 majority, before leveraging taxes above inflation. Isn't this enough?

===================
I agree Mr. Lidoffad,
This was about greed and selfishness..

Mr. Ficker and his clueless followers are the modern conservatives is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

Fei Hu

Posted by: Fei_Hu | November 10, 2008 3:53 PM | Report abuse

I just have 1 thing to say.

WHAT!!!!!!??????????

I've never read more talking around in circles B. S.

Game over, you lost.

Mark D. Fennel
===================
Actually MARK..
The county lost...
A Cheapskate... that is what are.
Be sure to take your money so you can fix you own road.

Fei Hu

Posted by: Fei_Hu | November 10, 2008 3:55 PM | Report abuse

lidoffad is right.

This isn't about being for or against tax increases. It's about whether or not you think entire budgets should be held hostage by ONE council member.

Currently, the tax increase process requires the approval of 7 of 9 members. That's more than sufficient if your concern is out-of-control tax increases.

If that's not sufficient for you, you probably have some other agenda. Which is fine, just STATE YOUR TRUE PURPOSE and allow for real discussion of it.

Posted by: amr39 | November 10, 2008 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Hurray for Mr. Ficker. The "bigger and bigger government crowd" has tarred and feathered him for years and the Wash Post has most often obliged and yet Mr. Ficker keeps at it. He is a virtual 2 party system in our one party state. We hope this sends the message that we voters are sick and tired of everything being a priority spending item; that we are sick and tired of business and usual from the County Council.

Sign me, another disaffected democrat

Posted by: lovinliberty | November 10, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

This is a horrible piece of junk. We will end up at the mercy of a one person minority . If eight Council members propose a tax increase which may be vitally needed, a single individual can stop it--no matter what the need or its urgency. This doesn't SAVE anyone any taxes, it just places the future of the county in the hands of any ONE Council member. The current law requiring 7 of 9 was adequate protection against big spenders going wild.
Fools !

Posted by: jmsbh | November 10, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Glad I had nothing to do with this.

Montgomery County didn't get to be great because of penny pinchers like Ficker.

Posted by: bflorhodes | November 10, 2008 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Question B applies only to increases in property tax revenues that go over the rate of inflation. It does not apply to new construction. If property tax revenue increases stay within the rate of inflation, Question B does not apply. The county is already getting a windfall because assessments are higher than the selling prices of homes on the same street.

The willingness of county officials to load us up with big tax increases has sent a signal to the Governor and legislators in other parts of the state that Montgomery County elected officials are willing to assume more of the burden so we get hit with a double whammy--local tax increases and more than our fair share of state tax increases.

The elected officials have made out a political re-election blueprint which does not include homeowners. They simply look to get a majority of the votes of the mere 10% of all voters who vote in their party's primary. They get these votes by paying for them---salary increases, more benefits and appointments. The homeowners get the bill.

The original intent of the charter property tax limit was that it would be overridden in emergencies--like the Lake Needwood Dam breaking. But giving county employees a 30% raise over three years is NOT an emergency. If county elected officials don't like operating with any restraint the council, can put a repeal of the limit on the ballot right next to themselves in 2010. Then, instead of repealing restraint every year by overriding it, they can see if the voters will vote them in and the limits out at the same time.

Senator Obama talked in the campaign about giving 95% of working Americans a tax break. He is still talking about middle income tax cuts. The President-elect would boo the tax increase economic recovery plan of Montgomery County elected officials.

Posted by: robinficker | November 10, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Dear Montgomery County,

You will live to rue the day you went along with Mr. Ficker on this referendum. Like all of his other hare-brained schemes, this is fraught with pitfalls. This one will allow a minority of one council member to grind the entire budget process to a halt. There is a reason he has been called a "gadfly" all these years. (And that is the nicest term used). He needs to get a real job to occupy his time and stop living off of his physician wife. He could not make it as an attorney or as a Realtor. Stamp a big "L" on his forehead.

Posted by: Slinger61 | November 10, 2008 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I voted for your tax cut proposal, now give me affordable housing. $300K condos don't cut it on a federal salary.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | November 10, 2008 7:44 PM | Report abuse

THANK YOU ROBIN!!!

Those who keep saying this amendment is going to bring some disaster have apparently bought the county council's line that there is no alternative to raising taxes, that if one member "holds the council hostage" and refuses to vote to raise taxes we're all going to die a horrible screaming death. There IS another option: spend less. How about just looking back at the years we had double digit percent annual budget increases and decide what we would NOT have signed up to if we were in the same situation we are in today? Heck they just exceeded the charter limit by a factor of three, you would think that should hold them for a few years!!

And if there really were a choice between having the county's budget held hostage to one member, and having MY OWN family budget held hostage to the whims of the county council, yaknow what, I'm willing to take that chance!

Posted by: afpre42 | November 10, 2008 8:23 PM | Report abuse

This must have been the biggest misread of citizens' desires by politicians I've seen since I've lived in Montgomery County. The members of Congress, the County Executive, the County Council, the School Board, the State Senators, the House delegation, the League of Women Voters, and the unions all were opposed to Question B, yet it passed. Why don't these folks talk to the homeowners once in a while instead of just each other.

Posted by: amginther | November 10, 2008 9:34 PM | Report abuse

All the whiners on here are likely people on the public dole one way or the other. Public school teachers got an 8% raise. Tell me how much of a raise I got last year? Nothing. Business sucked, so we all got nothing.

That's the tip of the iceberg. Illegal aliens getting assistance from the county. Spending money on stuff that we can't afford right now. Pay raises not curtailed because the council "didn't want to break a promise".

So the voters fight back, and then a bunch of you whiners on the public teat start to complain.

My advice... get a job or move. And if you can't afford where you live somewhere cheaper. If you can't afford Montgomery County move to another county. If you can't afford the DC area move to a cheaper area.

You aren't "owed" housing in an expensive area. Some of us are actually busting our butt to earn a living, pay our taxes, buy gas, and put our kids through college. We don't appreciate you going through our wallet because you feel you're owed something.

Posted by: Ombudsman1 | November 10, 2008 10:29 PM | Report abuse

For years, Robin Ficker and anyone else who disagreed with WaPo or the politicians WaPo supported were called by WaPo gadflies. In the meantime, Montgomery County kept raising taxes and spending money like there was no tomorrow. Venerable organizations like the Civic Federation were ridiculed and marginalized. The County, 4th in the nation 20 years ago is today ranked probably around 15th in the nation on most quality of life issues.

I wonder if Ficker will prevail. At the end, this might be just a little scare to keep their dander up. Politicians, with WaPo's op/ed support, will weather the storm and keep on spending. That's the way it has been for the past three decades as the county keeps moving in a downward direction. There is nothing to suggest yet that "change is coming" to Montgomery County.

Posted by: GoodAmerican | November 10, 2008 11:25 PM | Report abuse

For years, Robin Ficker and anyone else who disagreed with WaPo or the politicians WaPo supported were called by WaPo gadflies. In the meantime, Montgomery County kept raising taxes and spending money like there was no tomorrow. Venerable organizations like the Civic Federation were ridiculed and marginalized. The County, 4th in the nation 20 years ago is today ranked probably around 15th in the nation on most quality of life issues.

I wonder if Ficker will prevail. At the end, this might be just a little scare to keep their dander up. Politicians, with WaPo's op/ed support, will weather the storm and keep on spending. That's the way it has been for the past three decades as the county keeps moving in a downward direction. There is nothing to suggest yet that "change is coming" to Montgomery County.

Posted by: GoodAmerican | November 10, 2008 11:26 PM | Report abuse

I voted for Obama and Question B for change. The county officials are like flypaper for every maggot who wants to pick my pocket.

Posted by: jason14 | November 11, 2008 3:54 AM | Report abuse

This is not about cutting taxes and the council will not be at the mercy of one member in order to raise taxes. It just means that all on the council will have to take responsibility for exceeding the local property tax limit.

Posted by: Cfhoag | November 11, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

All this measure will do if it is passed is make the Council vote unanimously to exceed the property tax limit. That means, in my opinion, if the county is having a budget problem it will be probably be easier to either a) not spend as much or b) pass an increase in the income tax with a simple or 2/3's majority which will affect ALL county residents, homeowner or renter.

[BTW, if I am wrong on point B please do not hesitate to call me out on it]

I think it is not exactly being honest to complain of "trouble coming" with services because the county can't raise property taxes when there are other tax solutions. I don't mind paying higher income taxes and even paying a higher proportionate share I'm considered wealthy (and with a five figure income in MoCo I don't see how I would be considered among THIS county's wealthy) but I think we should all chip in AND ALL OF US pay for the services that we want as a COUNTY, and not just the homeowners.

Posted by: jamdl01 | November 11, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

Question B has won 56% of the provisional votes and now leads 190,611 to 185,988 or by 4,623 votes. It won in legislative districts 14, 15, 17, 19, and 39.

Posted by: robinfickerofrobinrealty | November 14, 2008 3:40 PM | Report abuse

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