Tax Votes Split Delegation Along Party Lines


March 14, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

Delegate Elizabeth S. Smith marveled at how quickly "anti-tax" lawmakers turned pro-tax last week.

Only two months ago, sentiment among lawmakers was overwhelmingly against new levies. But the House of Delegates split along party lines March 9 when it passed a 5 percent sales tax on cigarettes, 105-28, and eliminated Maryland's 40 percent tax break on capital gains, 91-40.

Smith, R-Davidsonville, says Democratic lawmakers turned a deaf ear to voters when they passed the $74 million tax package to balance the state's $11.6 billion budget.

"Any good we did by cutting the budget, the public won't remember it," Smith said. "All they'll remember is we passed another tax increase.

"(The vote) really surprised and disappointed me. I don't understand how (the Democrats) could forget last year's election so quickly. I know --elephants never forget. Only they could remember what the people told them during the campaign last year."

The Anne Arundel County delegation also split along party lines. Only the three Republicans -- Delegates John G. Gary,R-Millersville, Phillip Bissett, R-Mayo, and Smith -- voted against both tax increases.

Delegate Charles W. "Stokes" Kolodziejski, D-Carvel Beach, voted against the levy on cigarettes; Delegate Marsha Perry, D-Crofton, opposed eliminating the capital gains tax break.

"I have no problem putting a tax on cigarettes," said Delegate Joan Cadden, D-Brooklyn Park, who approved both increases. "And the other one is just to close a loophole so the rich people aren't getting away without paying any taxes."

In January, legislators said they remembered all too well the anti-tax message sent from the polls last November.

Since then, House Speaker Clayton Mitchell, D-Eastern Shore,reversed his anti-tax position and masterminded the tax package. To pressure reluctant lawmakers, the proposals were tied to state aid toBaltimore City and the counties for fire, police, public schools andother government services.

Anne Arundel County, which is struggling to balance its budget next year, stood to lose about $6 million instate aid.

"The general feeling was there weren't going to be anytaxes," said Delegate Patrick C. Scannello, D-Glen Burnie. "But whenthe government doesn't have any way to operate, you have to do what's least painful. This seemed least painful."

"We're actually raising state taxes to help local governments balance their budgets," Garysaid. "That doesn't make sense. It's like Daddy giving you money to buy a new car when Daddy really doesn't have the money to do it.

"If the local subdivisions need money, it's up to them to find or maketheir own cuts," Gary said.

Democratic leaders contended that thechange in the capital gains would primarily affect the rich, the 10,000 Maryland taxpayers who earn $200,000 or more year. But Republicans argued that it would hit the middle class as well as the wealthy, robbing the economy of capital needed to fuel a recovery.

"I reallyheld my breath when I voted for the capital gains tax," said Huff, an independent insurance broker. "It could come back and hurt me personally. I don't think it will hurt my constituents too much. Politically, I think it would have hurt me if I didn't vote for it."

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