Assembly agendas diverse

January 08, 1995|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

Trimming Maryland's budget and helping to boost economic development are chief among the issues members of Carroll County's legislative delegation expect to face this year.

"We'll look closely at making cuts in the budget, realistic cuts and not spend every penny we take in," said Del. Richard N. Dixon, D-Westminster. "We need to work on the budget so the process is smoother in future years."

But while delegation members, five Republicans and one

Democrat, all favor a fiscally conservative approach, their ideas on how to balance it range from Mr. Dixon's inclination to carefully trim services to Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson's proposals to eliminate capital gains taxes and estate taxes.

"You have to dry up the funds," said Mr. Ferguson, a Taylorsville Republican. "That's a safer way of cutting government. Then the [legislative] leadership can determine which functions aren't worth keeping."

Sen. Larry E. Haines of Westminster said he is proposing a reduction in the capital gains tax, a bill he offered without success last year. To make it more palatable to his fellow senators, he has added a $50,000 cap to the bill this time around, he said.

"Last year, the bill didn't get out of committee," Mr. Haines said. "I hope we can get enough support for it this year."

Local taxes, particularly those paid by residents of condominium units, are of concern to Mr. Dixon, the county's lone Democratic lawmaker.

The delegate intends to resubmit a bill that would allow residents of the Parr's Ridge condominium community in Westminster to negotiate their property taxes with the city.

"Those people are paying taxes twice," Mr. Dixon said, noting that Parr's Ridge residents pay condominium association fees in addition to their city taxes.

Association fees pay for trash pickup and maintenance of the community's private streets. Other city residents receive road maintenance and trash pickup with their taxes. The bill was submitted last year at the request of Parr's Ridge residents, who said that at least two Maryland cities -- Baltimore in some instances and Ocean City -- provide services to condo owners.

Mr. Dixon, who is a stockbroker, announced last month that he is seeking the state treasurer's job now held by Lucille Maurer, a former Montgomery County legislator who has held the post since 1987.

The state treasurer, who is elected by the General Assembly, is one of three members of Maryland's Board of Public Works, which rules on all state capital budget requests.

State lawmakers will select a treasurer by Jan. 18.

Carroll County's Democratic leadership will have to appoint a representative if Mr. Dixon succeeds in his bid.

Lowering taxes would also help make Maryland more economically competitive with other states in the region, unlike initiatives such as keno or the state lottery, Mr. Haines said.

"I think it's poor public policy and poor economic development," Mr. Haines said, noting that legalized gambling may become an important issue in the next session. "Too many negative things come with it."

"Pushing a button or filling out a keno card doesn't provide job opportunities for anyone," Mr. Haines said. "There is only so much gambling money to go around. I'd rather abolish the lottery and help rebuild the horse racing industry."

These are some of the other bills Carroll's delegation members intend to submit during the 1995 General Assembly session.

* Mr. Haines plans to introduce legislation that would bring more money to the Agricultural Land Preservation program by diverting funds from the Project Open Space program. The senator also intends to try to repeal the current automobile emissions standards, at least until surrounding states also comply.

* Mr. Dixon plans legislation requiring lawyers to inform their clients when they have received payment from an insurance settlement.

He also intends to resubmit legislation which would make mining companies responsible for sinkholes that occur within a sphere of influence defined by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Mr. Dixon was successful in passing a similar bill several years ago which made mining companies responsible for residential wells that go dry within an area defined by the DNR.

* Del. Donald B. Elliott of New Windsor will submit a companion bill to Mr. Haines' proposed repeal of strict new emissions standards.

However, in the event that is not successful, he is submitting legislation to require money for the emissions programs to come out of the general budget. In this way, all counties would contribute to the program, he said.

Only 10 Maryland counties -- including Carroll -- are required to pay for the emissions program. Cars owned by residents of other counties do not have to pass the emissions tests.

Mr. Elliott would also like to require prison officials to inform sexual assault and abuse victims if their attackers are released. While this procedure is part of prison policy, it is not required, he said.

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