Voters in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties looking for a county executive candidate to champion their referendum campaigns for a cap on property taxes have run out of prospects.
Baltimore County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen, who has been dogged by the movement to control taxes more than any other candidate in the Baltimore metro area, has now publicly stated his opposition to the proposed 2 percent cap on property-tax revenues that will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot in his county.
Likewise, Theodore J. Sophocleus, Democratic candidate for Anne Arundel County executive, has decided to oppose the 4.5 percent cap on the ballot there.
Republican executive candidates Robert Neall in Anne Arundel and Roger B. Hayden in Baltimore County both earlier expressed their opposition.
All have said they feel the tax-cap ballot questions are too restrictive. The risk that their positions may run against any growing support for the referendums seems eased by the fact that none of the candidates support the cap.
In Anne Arundel, Sophocleus said last week that he plans a voluntary, self-imposed 5 percent cap on property-tax growth per year, and an assessment-growth cap of 3 to 5 percent if he is elected.
In Baltimore County, Rasmussen had refused to take a public position on the issue after the Court of Appeals last month approved part of the original cap petition for the ballot. But he has decided to participate in a public campaign by business, labor and school groups to persuade voters to vote against the referendum.
"The fiscal impact is of great concern," Rasmussen said. Over three to five years, it would have a "dramatic impact" on the county's ability to raise money and sustain services, he said. Officials said the cap alone will cut county revenues by at least $26 million next year, and hurt capital projects, too.
Rasmussen is considering spending some of his $550,000 in campaign funds to help pay for media ads opposing the cap.
Proponents of the cap are angry about rising property-tax assessments on their homes and the higher tax bills that result. Although Rasmussen has raised Baltimore County's property-tax rate 4 cents in his four years in office, the constantly increasing assessments mean the annual tax bills rise anyway.