Council member C. Vernon Gray told the Sunrise Rotary Club in Ellicott City last week that state and county governments must raise a variety of new taxes despite strong public opposition.
"There has never been a time when services were so much in demand and our revenues so limited," Gray, D-3rd, said in his Dec. 19 talk. "More people are out of work than ever in the past 40 years."
"Through this darkness, the voice of our citizens grows louder," Gray said. "People say, 'Maintain our level of services but don't raise our taxes. Keep our schools open, but don't raise our taxes. Help us through these times of distress, but don't raise our taxes.' "
It can't be done, Gray said. If the county is going to "chart its owncourse and drive its own destiny," several things things must occur.
First, he said, the state must increase its 1-cent sales tax to 6cents, and it must include additional items to be taxed.
Second, the county must be allowed to increase its portion of the piggy-back income tax from 50 percent to 60 percent.
Third, the state must borrow money for open space and parks so that the real estate transfer tax can be used for other purposes.
Fourth, the county must be given authority to raise whatever taxes are necessary to provide needed services.
Also, the state should become fully responsible for the Sheriff's Office, the State's Attorney's Office and the Health Department, Gray said. Those offices now receive a portion of their income from the county.
Gray called on Rotary Club members to "continue fighting" to keep essential services available to families in distress, to keep a parenting curriculum in schools, and to keep family-oriented programs in the community.
Gray, who is president of the Maryland Association of Counties, said he has shared his suggestions with the governor's chief of staff.
He said he advocates the changes not only for Howard but for all local jurisdictions.