First Click -- Maryland
Your Daily Download of the State's Top Political News and Analysis
Monday, August 31, 2009:
O'Malley, Franchot at Odds on Tax Amnesty?
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and the legislature's top Democrats will join Maryland business leaders this morning to kick off a tax amnesty designed as a carrot-and-stick approach to deal with scofflaws and to drive revenue into state coffers.
The amnesty is the second since 2001 and allows residents and businesses with unpaid back taxes to pay them free of penalty and at half the interest accrued. If scofflaws don't come forward by Oct. 1, however, they face compounded penalties, and as much as five years of jail time, reports the Baltimore Business Journal.
One state Democrat not too happy about the plan: Comptroller Peter Franchot. The Montgomery County pol tells WBAL News that he's "not a huge fan" of the plan. The station quoted him Sunday calling the amnesty a "get-out-of-jail-free card for all of the tax cheats in Maryland who have been ducking their responsibilities." Franchot said he will carry out the amnesty, but expects it to net far less than the tens of millions the state collected in 2001, because there have been only a few years in between the two amnesty offers.
Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch are scheduled to be at the announcement this morning in Dundalk. A news release from the governor's office did not list Franchot as an attendee.
(Update: Aides to both O'Malley and Franchot say the comptroller was invited to today's kickoff, but couldn't attend because he was out of town. Franchot asked his deputy, Linda Tanton to represent the comptroller's office in his absence. An aide also said Franchot appreciates the need to tap all possible sources of state revenue. The aide said his on-air remarks reflected his general preference for strong tax-policy enforcement.)
By the way -- the location doesn't appear to be a statement about taxpayers in Dundalk. O'Malley and Brown will be nearby touring the newly renovated Dunbar High School on Baltimore's first day of school.
Back-Patting on Budget Cuts
Carl Roberts, executive director of the Public School Superintendents' Association of Maryland, wrote that O'Malley and his fellow members on the Board of Public Works deserve thanks for carving $454 million out of the state's budget without touching K-12 education. Even if the board had wanted to, however, it couldn't have cut education, which requires a vote of the legislature.
The Capital's editorial board also praised the cuts as "unpleasant but justified."
The Post's John Wagner notes Gov. O'Malley also repeatedly has patted the state on the back for not being as bad as California.
It's not just an effort to look good before next year's reelection effort. "Frankly, it also makes me feel better about the difficult decisions that we have to make, that we're faring better than most," O'Malley told The Post.
Will Budget Cuts Force Tuition Hike Before Election?
Gov. O'Malley has touted a three-year tuition freeze for University of Maryland students as one of the state's greatest achievements during his tenure. But will the university system be forced to raise tuition before his reelection bid? The university system's board is unlikely to raise tuition this spring after promising not to, writes Childs Walker in The Baltimore Sun.
But all bets are off for next fall, according to the University's student newspaper, The Diamondback.
Watchdog Group Questions Large Facilities for Juveniles
Maryland's juvenile justice watchdog group says the state should move more toward developing small, 12-bed facilities to help delinquent youths with mental illness, rather than incarcerating them in larger institutions, writes the Associated Press's Brian Witte.
The Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit writes in a new report that "it is hard to understand why" the state has moved ahead with two larger facilities in recent years, when the Maryland model for juvenile services "purports to develop small, home-like facilities."
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