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Taxes on alcohol, millionaires get airing on MPT

Thumbnail image for Mike Miller mug.jpgMaryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) opened the door -- but only slightly -- to the possibility of an increase in alcohol taxes next year during an appearance Wednesday night on Maryland Public Television.

"It's a possibility that the votes will be there to move in that direction," Miller said during an hourlong program that also included Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).

Health advocates are arguing that taxes should be raised by 5 to 10 cents per drink during the coming legislative session. The state's levies on beer and wine have not been raised in more than 37 years, and taxes on hard liquor have not gone up since 1955.

Miller said that a tax increase would only generate about $20 million at a time when the state is facing a budget shortfall of up to $2 billion in fiscal year 2011.

Thumbnail image for Busch photo.jpgBusch was not receptive to the idea, saying: "I don't think any sort of tax increase during this period is going to be beneficial."

Later in the program, Miller said he "personally" shares that view but is sometimes surprised by what ideas emerge from his chamber. "The smaller the body, the looser the reins," Miller said.

Elaborating on his personal views, Miller said "this is going to be the year for more cuts and not taxes."

The MPT program was devoted to state budget issues. Among the other highlights:

-- O'Malley remained noncommittal about whether a temporary surtax on millionaires that passed in 2008 should remain in place beyond the 2010 tax year, when it is scheduled to expire. "I haven't reached a conclusion myself," he said.

-- O'Malley said he is increasingly hearing from county leaders that the state should delay its transition to a voting system next year that produces a voter-verifiable paper record. "It seems the last election went pretty well," O'Malley said.

-- Busch voiced strong support for a temporary tax credit proposed by O'Malley that would reward companies with $3,000 for every unemployed worker they hire. "I think everything about this session needs to be about jobs and job creation," O'Malley said.

By John Wagner  |  December 16, 2009; 8:36 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly , John Wagner  
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