WESTMINSTER - The plan calls for a tax increase that will affect even his wallet, but R. Robert Linowes, author of a state tax reform report, says it's the right thing to do.
"If the state is going to be economically sound, there's got to be money," he said. "There are no more free lunches. The bills are coming due."
Linowes outlined the plan to members of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce at a luncheon Thursday at Martin's Westminster.
"I assure you, I'm going to be hit as hard as anyone in this room," he said.
Linowes is a Montgomery County lawyer who headed the governor's Commission on State Taxes and Tax Structure.
The plan advocates new taxes, including a 2 percent annual excise tax on motor vehicles and pleasure boats, and calls for state income tax rates to be realigned so higher-income families are taxed at a higher rate.
"Tax people according to their ability to pay. Novel? God, no," he said.
"Revolutionary? I hope not. Tax people in similar circumstances similarly."
Linowes, a Trenton, N.J., native, was appointed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer three years ago to study the state's tax structure. The Democrat is on the road these days explaining his commission's plan, which was released last month. He also spoke in Howard County and Baltimore on Thursday.
The plan would bring in about $800 million a year in new revenue for the state.
Carroll County would receive an additional $15 million, with most of it going to education and transportation, if the proposal were adopted.
The county's property tax rate, $2.35 per $100 of assessed value, would be reduced by 15 cents under his plan.
Linowes said two out of three Marylanders, or people who earn $40,000 or less, would pay less state income tax under the plan.
The commission found that people earning $20,000 to $30,000 a year pay 10.5 percent of their income in state taxes. People who earn more than $50,000 pay 8.5 percent, he said.
Under the Linowes plan, a family of four earning $25,000 would pay $132 a year less in state income taxes, he said.
Georgia Hoff, a real estate agent from New Windsor, asked Linowes why a tax on motor vehicles was needed when part of the gas tax already goes to repair and build roads.
More money is needed because transportation and infrastructure are important for the state's growth, he answered.
Hoff, who served on a Department of Transportation review board for many years, said she suspects the excise tax, if enacted, would be raised to 3 percent the next year.
"Personally, I feel like I'm being taxed to death," she said. "Why don't we look for loose ends in government that are wasteful?"
New Windsor resident David Duree said it seemed like Linowes was saying, "I'm from the IRS, and I'm here to help."
"Every time we hear tax reform, we hear tax increase," Duree said.
Linowes said, "Yes, it is a tax increase, but it's an increase for those who can best afford it."
Lloyd B. Thomas, chairman of the County Economic Development Commission, said he's concerned the plan will be changed greatly after it goes to the state legislature and that money earmarked for certain programs would be spent on others.
"We need more detail," he said.
The plan also calls for a new tax on services, including cable television, dry cleaning, tanning booths, parking, car and appliance repair and lawn care, among others.
"Services have not been asked to pay their fair share," he said.
Lawyers, architects, accountants and engineers would not be taxed because their services are "mobile," he said: They don't have to live in Maryland to practice their trades here.