Public, Legislature Split Over New Taxes

Families Agree On One Thing: Government Must Scale Back

March 22, 1992|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

The Meyers are not willing to pay new taxes under any circumstances this year, they say, because to do so would hinder economic recovery and prop up a state government that is inefficient, unaccountable and"too big."

The Herndons share some of the same philosophy. They believe state government has room for cuts but lacks incentive. They say government should curb abuses of social programs to reduce wasteful spending. They agree that government should be downsized.

The major difference between the two Carroll families' philosophy? The Herndons are willing to pay more in taxes, provided the money is spent for certain purposes and targets efficient programs.

The General Assembly also is divided on the issue. Some legislators opposetax increases, favoring deep cuts to balance next year's budget; others support a modest tax increase to avoid deep cuts; still others advocate a higher level of tax increase to maintain existing governmentprograms.

State cuts will affect the county, since about one-third of the budget is allocated to local jurisdictions. Cuts in aid to Carroll will affect education, which makes up about half of the countybudget.

The Senate adopted a $245 million tax package Tuesday that extends the state's 5 percent sales tax to some services and products that are currently exempt and increases cigarette and alcohol taxes. Other proposals have included raising the sales tax rate, increasing the gas tax and authorizing counties to impose higher income tax rates. The House is mulling other options.

As the General Assembly grapples with the state's budget problems, The Carroll County Sun sought reaction from county families with differing perspectives.

TheMeyer family

Daniel, 40, is an associate real estate broker with O'Conor, Piper & Flynn in Westminster and runs his own land development business. His wife, Fiona, 39, is a homemaker and a volunteer teacher's aide. They live northwest of Westminster with their three children: Neina, 17, a senior at Francis Scott Key High; Elizabeth, 13, a seventh-grader at Northwest Middle; and Adam, 11, a fifth-grader at Taneytown Elementary.

The recession has hurt -- but hasn't devastated -- Daniel's business, he says. His income always has been erratic because the industry is cyclical.

"You learn to live with what youhave," he says. "If you don't have it, you don't spend."

The Meyers say government has become overly ambitious.

"Less is best," says Daniel, a Republican. "Government has certain responsibilities, butnot the responsibility to take care of us from cradle to grave."

Fiona, who is politically unaffiliated, says she doesn't oppose government assisting the downtrodden for short periods, but objects if it becomes a "continual thing."

"We have enough trouble supporting our family," she says. "We don't need to support other families. Government shouldn't be in the role of taking care of families."

Daniel believes there's "gross waste and mismanagement" in government and that any taxes raised during bad economic times won't be rolled back when conditions improve.

He says government must assist the infirm, the poor and the homeless, but contends that raising taxes in a poor economy could create a larger legion of needy. He advocates more emphasis on programs to create jobs.

Fiona says individuals, not government, must do more to help neighbors in need.

"People close theireyes to what's going on around them," she says. "When I die, I don'twant my tombstone to say this person paid a lot of taxes. I want it to say I cared and did something to help other people."

Daniel says that if deep cuts are to be made, education should absorb its share. Fiona says she's not sure if that's a good idea.

The Herndon family

Bud, 44, has been forced by the recession to change jobs and expects to start a new position soon with a surety bond company. His wife, Debbie, 38, works part time as an office assistant at Piney Ridge Elementary. The Eldersburg couple has two children: Kimberly, 14, afreshman at Liberty High; and Brad, 12, a seventh-grader at Sykesville Middle. Bud and Debbie are active in PTA councils.

Bud says he doesn't believe the fat has been trimmed from state government. Even so, he says he could support a tax increase if it was tied to full funding of APEX, a formula that targets state aid to counties for educational needs.

He says sales tax increases or expansions are "regressive" and calls the proposal to allow increases in the local income tax rate a "cop-out." But he says he'd be willing to pay "user fees,"such as an increased gas tax to spur road construction, because they"seem fair."

"I'd be willing to pay more taxes if I was assured it was going to things I supported," says Bud, a Republican.

Debbie, a Democrat, said she would support a local tax targeted to schools -- not because of her job, but as a concerned parent.

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