Talk of tax increase is growing

December 12, 1991|By David Conn

Reluctantly, grudgingly, more Maryland business leaders and legislators are beginning to accept the idea that the state might have to raise taxes.

J. Glenn Beall, a former U.S. senator who now chairs a business coalition's fiscal policy committee, gave voice to that mood yesterday in his personal assessment of Maryland's budget problems.

"Some of us think that you may have to have some increase in tax revenues at the state level to get us over the current problems," Mr. Beall told an audience attending a Maryland Chamber of Commerce legislative conference.

The most likely action would be a 1-cent sales-tax increase or a surtax on the income tax, Mr. Beall said, but he would support such a move only if it is temporary. "You should not raise taxes in times of economic recession," he said.

But chamber Executive Vice President Charles Krautler said his group still sides with House Minority Leader Ellen R. Sauerbrey, R-Baltimore Co., and other legislators who are opposed to higher taxes until all budget-cutting and government-trimming steps have been taken.

Yesterday's conference followed by one day Gov. William Donald Schaefer's latest budget-cut plan, a $225 million reduction that puts two-thirds of the burden on local governments. Many believe that fiscal 1993's state budget deficit will approach or even exceed $1 billion.

The chairmen of the House and Senate fiscal committees agreed that the legislature is unlikely to give Mr. Schaefer the authority to make the cuts he proposed. Rather than eliminating almost all non-federally mandated programs, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Charles J. Ryan, D-Prince George's, said, the package the legislature will present to the governor will include program cuts, a restructuring of some government functions and tax increases.

His s counterpart on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, Sen. Laurence Levitan, D-Montgomery, agreed.

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