Members of Howard County's Senate delegation are claiming they voted against a county hotel tax because their constituents are opposed to a tax increase. In fact, their refusal to sponsor the measure on behalf of County Executive Chuck Ecker will mean a big property tax increase.
The vote can be viewed as little more than partisan posturing: The decision by the Democratic members of the Senate delegation left the measure with no sponsor and, as such, robbed Ecker, a Republican, of his best alternative to gouging property owners. The recession, coupled with Reagan-era federalism, has taken a terrible toll on Howard's economy, which draws most of its revenue from piggy-back income taxes and property taxes, both of which have been depressed by the souring economy.
As a result, simply matching this year's $286.4 million budget would require a stunning 64-cent increase in the county's property tax rate. So, for the first time in years, spending will have to be slashed; Ecker is struggling to come up with a $270 million budget for fiscal 1992, a 6 percent drop from this year. But financing even a trimmed-back budget could translate into a property tax increase of 20 cents.