Tax Plan Will Cost Arundel

Report Sees Burden For Poorer Residents

March 01, 1991|By Samuel Goldreich | Samuel Goldreich,Staff writer

The Schaefer administration's tax reform bill would cost Anne Arundel taxpayers almost $3 for every $1 coming back to the county government, according to a legislative analysis.

The proposal has been touted as the key to making the state tax system fairer since it was recommended in November by the Linowes Commission appointed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

But the General Assembly's Department of Fiscal Services concluded in a report released Wednesday that low- and middle-income taxpayers statewide would be stuck with much of the annual $807 million bill.

Opponents hope that the report will help bury the Maryland Tax Fairness Act of 1991, which will be debated today at a joint hearing inthe State House.

After a $13 million state grant the first year to compensate for lower county property tax rates, Anne Arundel taxpayers would pay out $2.9 in added taxes for every $1 returned to the county in state aid for education, highways and property tax relief.

"I think anything that pulls out $84 million from (Anne Arundel) taxpayers' pockets and gives back $29 million (to county government) is not the kind of arithmetic that I'm looking for in this fiscal year,"County Executive Robert R. Neall said yesterday.

The county is one of the biggest losers in what opponents complain is a zero-sum gameto redistribute wealth to Baltimore and the state's 11 poorest counties.

The money would be raised by higher income taxes for the wealthy and corporations, a half-penny sales tax increase, new sales taxes on services and a 2 percent levy on the value of cars and boats.

Robert R. Linowes, a prominent Montgomery County attorney, argues that two-thirds of state taxpayers -- those earning less than $40,000 -- would get a tax break.

But the report concluded that some peopleearning as little as $15,000 could end up paying $100 in new taxes, depending on the value of their cars.

And with a median income exceeding $45,000 and 454 miles of shoreline, the report shows that AnneArundel would be behind only Montgomery, Baltimore and Prince George's counties in bearing the brunt of tax reform.

"There are inequities in the tax system, and they need to be looked at, but (don't) tryto ramrod it through this session when nobody had a report to look at until after the election," said Jeannette Wessel, executive vice president of the Anne Arundel Trade Council.

Neall agreed that the state should find ways to help its poorest localities. But he said every county -- including Anne Arundel -- is struggling to pay for services including schools, libraries, community colleges and health agencies, some of which have subsisted under the same state aid formulas for 30 years.

Anti-tax groups will rally against the Linowes proposal today in front of the State House. They will be led by 1988 Republican Senate candidate Alan Keyes, who said he expects to meet Linowes in a series of debates.

"The whole notion that this is property tax relief and that somehow we will be relieved from pressures on property taxes is a sham," said Keyes, president of the national Citizens Against Government Waste.

But opponents have not shaken the faith of Donald E. Hood, one of three county residents who served on the Linowes Commission.

"I think Baltimore city can very well drag down the economy of the whole state, if it hasn't already done so," he said. "But I still think there's time to do something."

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