Lambasting Linowes

November 20, 1990

Just as we suspected, critics rushed to pass (negative) judgment on the Linowes commission's tax-reform suggestions even before they had laid eyes on the yet-to-be approved final report. They had their minds made up; they felt no need to study the document before rejecting the panel's recommendations.

Such myopic thinking poses a danger to Maryland's future development. Ignoring the stark realities that the Linowes commission identified could lead to a declining revenue base, increasing demands for social services and a frightening gap between the state's haves and its have-nots.

Maryland's tax structure is badly flawed. Its once-progressive income-tax is now practically a flat-rate tax that inflicts more pain on middle-income families than on the wealthy. The sales tax brings in 40 percent less than similar taxes elsewhere because so many services are exempt.

Meanwhile, Maryland is failing in its obligations to give its citizens quality transportation and superior local public schools. The state doesn't spend enough money helping poor subdivisions. And the state has given local governments no choice but to place a too-heavy tax burden on home owners.

These are problems the Linowes commission tried to address. Their solutions are well worth pursuing. The panel's critics, though, have yet to offer any options for making Maryland's tax structure fairer or resolving the state's most pressing long-range concerns.

Marylanders understand that better roads, better schools and more help for the poorest among us require changes in the tax law that could cost them more dollars. But if that new system taxes people according to their ability to pay and does not unduly favor or punish any group or industry, we believe they will welcome these changes.

State legislators and local officials ought to withhold judgment until they have had time to read the complete Linowes report and digest its findings. There are many positive recommendations (example: that all taxpayers receive property tax relief) which have received little publicity. This is the first comprehensive look at Maryland's tax structure in a quarter-century. It deserves responsible analysis and debate in Annapolis, not shoot-from-the-hip negativism.

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