Taxes become hard sell public opinion fails to reach legislators

NOTES FROM ANNAPOLIS

February 04, 1991|BY THE ANNAPOLIS BUREAU STAFF

For the last three years R. Robert Linowes and the members of his reform commission have been criss-crossing Maryland, putting together a package of tax increases to put the state on the road to tax equity and sufficient money for its poorer jurisdictions.

It was not an easy task.

Nor was selling it to lawmakers in Annapolis as Mr. Linowes and others involved with the commission discovered last week. In this era of "No New Taxes," Mr. Linowes and his colleagues didn't get the warmest of receptions.

But now it's up to Gov. William Donald Schaefer. This week, he is expected to introduce the controversial plan. And that's just fine with the Montgomery County lawyer who is looking to move out of the public eye.

"Immediately after my service on the commission, I will enter the federal witness protection program," Mr. Linowes told the House Ways & Means Committee.

MAIL CALL!

Read your mail, Gov. Willliam Donald Schaefer told legislators.

His own mail is filled, he said, with urgent appeals for help -- apparently a suggestion that legislators think more seriously about raising taxes to deal with unmet needs.

Mr. Schaefer said his correspondents bemoan the absence of medical programs, the lack of housing programs and the closing public parks as the result of budget problems. "Some of you have a hard, cold heart," the governor said in remarks before he administered the oath of office to Treasurer Lucille Maurer last week.

"Maybe you don't get those letters. Maybe you just give 'em to a secretary. Well, read 'em."

One legislator, Delegate Robert H. Kittleman, R-Howard -- who has read his mail -- said he found a different message.

"Wake up!" wrote a Gaithersburg businessman. "As a business owner, I have a profit and loss statement to deal with. I don't have the luxury of raising revenues via declaration. You shouldn't either."

A writer from Ellicott City said, "Just say 'no' to the Linowes tax increase. Put a stop to the insatiable appetite for tax revenue of Governor Schaefer and his elitist cronies."

And another writer from Ellicott City called Mr. Kittleman's attention to a recent issue of Money magazine that ranked Maryland fifth in the nation in overall tax burden.

"I hope you will direct your efforts and those of your colleagues toward fiscal responsibility, the elimination of bureaucracy and waste, and spending cuts instead of increased taxes. If not, count on me to vigorously oppose your re-election."

CLOSED DOOR POLICY

Last Monday night was a high-water mark for constituent service and legislative access in Annapolis.

While lawmakers went through the paces of their remarkably brief session, abortion rights activists held the regular Monday Night Rally outside the State House.

After the folk songs, candle lighting and chants, the activists trooped inside the building to wait for lawmakers to recess for the night. But House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. was ready:

"We're going to leave the front door closed," he told the delegates. "There's an awful large crowd out there, and I'd suggest you leave by the back tonight."

NEXT, A LAUGH TRACK

Like the warm-up guy who gets the audience stirred up before a TV show, Delegate John S. Arnick, D-Baltimore County, was ready when the Senate arrived in the House chamber for a joint session Friday.

Standing in front of the double doorway as it swung open to let the Senate in, Mr. Arnick hoisted a homemade "APPLAUSE" sign.

As Mr. Arnick backed down the aisle, holding the sign first to one side and then the other, the delegates responded with whoops and hollers and, finally, with applause for their senatorial cousins.

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