UPDATE: O'Malley to sign controversial Pr. Geo's tax measure into law
Gov. Martin O'Malley will sign into law Tuesday a tax measure passed by the Maryland General Assembly that has become a focal point of debate in this year's Prince George's County budget process, according to a list of bills to be signed that was released by O'Malley's office.
The bill, SB 683, would give residents a break on taxes they pay to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission in the county, an independent agency that in recent years has increasingly helped fund the county's operating budget. The bill would also cost the commission an estimated $18 million next fiscal year in tax revenue, which, some have argued, will make it hard to supply more than $60 million in commission money to the county as part of County Executive Jack B. Johnson's proposed budget.
Johnson has said the commission can afford to give the assistance, and recommended the agency make cutbacks similar to the ones the county has made during the economic downturn.
Just last week, an O'Malley spokesman said the governor was still on the fence about signing the bill, weighing the relief it would give to residents against the potential revenue dilemma it could cause for the county. Vetoing the bill, as one county executive candidate recently called for, would have been a risky move for O'Malley, whose Republican opponent, former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., has made cutting taxes a central plank of his campaign platform.
The continued assistance from the commission in the county budget has also drawn criticism from a Wall Street ratings agency, Fitch Ratings, and other critics, who say reliance on the money could lead to budget holes and a downgrade of the county's bond rating in the future. A lower bond rating would lead the county to pay more interest on borrowed money.
A call to O'Malley's spokesman seeking comment Tuesday morning was not immediately returned.
UPDATE, 5:39 p.m.
A spokesman for O'Malley said signing the tax measure into law was a "tough decision," but that providing tax relief to residents in Prince George's won out.
"I think ultimately, he came to the conclusion that given the national recession, that a small bit of tax relief for the residents of Prince George's County was preferable in this particular case, but it was a tough decision for him, and he had to balance that with the cut in revenue that the county would face," said O'Malley's spokesman, Rick Abbruzzese.
"The governor...having made $5.6 billion in cuts to state government--I think he thinks that the county can make up the difference, and hopes they do it in a responsible way."
May 4, 2010; 6:35 PM ET
Categories: 2010 Elections , General Assembly , Governor , Jonathan Mummolo , Prince George's County | Tags: Martin O'Malley, Maryland General Assembly, Prince George's County Maryland, Robert Ehrlich
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