Against Arundel's tax cap

October 22, 1992

Two years ago, Anne Arundel County residents made the right decision when they voted against placing a ceiling on the amount of property taxes the county can collect. Nothing has changed since that time.

On Nov. 3, the county's voters should kill a tax cap referendum that is on the ballot once more.

Caps on tax revenue are a bad idea, and not just because of their potential to decimate services. Tax caps violate the founding principle of a representative democracy.

We elect leaders to do a job for us. A tax cap says, in essence, that we cannot trust our representatives, so we must tie their hands to keep them from hurting us.

We already know what to do about leaders who fail us: Vote them out of office.

The tax cap proposal will appear on the ballot as "Question D." Petitioned by the Anne Arundel Taxpayers Association, it would limit the annual increase in property tax revenues to 4.5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

AATA estimates the cap would cost the county $10 million; the county predicts up to $40 million. AATA contends the reductions can be made painlessly because government has grown too fat. But there's no provision to protect basic services such as schools, libraries and police should inflation grow way beyond 4.5 percent.

True, families may save a few dollars a year, but it's businesses and wealthy property owners who will reap the real windfall. The Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. will be the single biggest beneficiary if this tax limitation measure passes.

In the long run, ordinary taxpayers would get less for their tax dollar, since a cap would harm the county's bond rating, causing the county to have to pay more in interest rates when it borrows money.

The arguments against a cap do not lessen government's obligation to reduce its growing reliance on the property tax.

This year, property taxes account for 42 percent of all revenues, 3 percent more than last year. Although state budget cuts and losses in other revenues have forced the county to depend more on property taxes, the county must explore other ways to raise money.

But hobbling government with a tax cap is not the answer. Taxpayers will pay in other ways for the few dollars saved on their tax bill.

For all these reasons, we urge a vote against Question D.

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