It took an unusual plea by the speaker of the House of Delegates and a fair amount of head-banging in a legislative committee to bring the first two tax bills of the session before the full House today.
The two bills -- one to expand the state's 5 percent sales tax to cover cigarettes and other tobacco products and one to close loopholes in the capital gains tax -- are designed to raise $74 million in new revenues and to restore the same amount of money taken in local aid cuts from the Schaefer administration's proposed $11.6 billion budget.
The House Ways and Means Committee last night approved the so-called cigarette tax bill by a 16-5 vote. The capital gains tax bill was approved, 17-4. Both the tax bills and the proposed budget are scheduled for debate on the House floor later today.
Minutes before the committee turned its attention to the tax bills, House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., one of the legislature's toughest opponents of new taxes, delivered an impassioned plea to committee members to approve the revenue measures.
Saying that the budget had been cut deeply, the Eastern Shore Democrat said the bills were necessary to alleviate the budget pains local jurisdictions will feel if no new revenues are found this year.
The full House could reject one or both the tax bills, but at the risk of sustaining $37 million in cuts that each measure is now tied to in the budget. If either bill is killed, subdivisions could be forced to raise property taxes to make up for the lost state aid, Del. James C. Rosapepe, D-Prince George's, told the committee.
Under the capital gains tax bill approved by the committee, exemptions allowed under the state code would be repealed so that the law would more closely resemble federal regulations.