Carroll Legislators Dismayed At Schaefer's Tax Proposals

Reducing Government Better Option, They Say

January 12, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

ANNAPOLIS — Carroll legislators were dismayed at the governor's annual address Thursday, which one lawmaker called a "cafeteria menu" of tax proposals.

The legislators said they were discouraged that Gov. William Donald Schaefer talked sparingly in his State of the State speech aboutreducing government, instead focusing on ways to raise additional revenues to avoid about $700 million in painful cuts.

"I was really shocked," said Delegate Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard. "I really felt the governor would be more sensitive to what we heard in the last election and from the majority of people throughout the state. To assume we can have business as usual and that we must have these taxes, I just can't agree with that."

Once levied,taxes rarely are rescinded when the economy improves, he added, and could lead to larger bureaucracies and more spending in the future.

Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick, Howard, said the proposals reminded him of the Linowes Commission tax reform plan that his Budget and Taxation Committee tabled last year. That plan would have raised additional revenue targeted toward education and needy jurisdictions.

The governor's tax proposals equate to "throwing money at a lot of programs, a little bit here and there and all over the place," he said. "I didn't hear anything about downsizing state government."

To eliminate a projected $1.2 billion shortfall in fiscal 1993, the governor proposed cutting $500 million from state agencies andproducing $700 million by increasing revenues and reducing aid to local governments. To offset aid reductions, the governor proposed granting authority to counties to raise the amount of income tax they collect by 10 percent.

The proposals include additional fees for state permits, licenses and services; shifting more income tax burden from lower and middle classes to upper classes; raising the corporate income tax; expanding the 5 percent sales tax to services, such as cable TV and car repairs, and some professional services; eliminating some sales tax exemptions; and raising cigarette and alcohol taxes.

Without the increases, cuts will be made to education, health, housingand public safety. The cuts would hurt the state's "most vulnerable," a rapidly growing segment, the governor said.

He also proposed increasing the gas tax by 5 cents per gallon to bolster the transportation fund.

Carroll legislators remain firmly opposed to tax increases. But several said they would consider supporting pieces of the plan.

Delegate Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, said he'd consider granting authority to counties to increase the local "piggyback" income tax rate. Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore, and Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, each said they could support eliminating some sales tax exemptions on foods.

Although he labeledthe speech "business as usual, tax and spend," Delegate Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, said he'd consider an expansion of the sales tax to certain services if attorneys' services were included.

The conservative said it's ironic the governor offered to set up an 800 number for citizens to report waste in government at the time he's proposing tax increases.

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