State tax-relief measure on hold until '96

March 22, 1995|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Sun Staff Writer

Marylanders hoping for state income tax relief will have to wait until next year.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and legislative leaders said yesterday that they have agreed not to seek a tax cut in the General Assembly session that ends April 10, promising instead to push for one in 1996.

Their plan was announced at joint news conference by the governor, House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. It marked a change of position for Mr. Taylor, who had been pressing as recently as last weekend for a tax cut this session.

The governor and Mr. Miller, in contrast, have been saying for weeks that they did not want to reduce taxes until they know what kind of cuts the Republican-dominated Congress has in store for Maryland.

Yesterday, Mr. Taylor stressed Mr. Glendening's willingness to seek a tax cut next year rather than waiting until later in his four-year term.

"For the governor to make the announcement today that he's committed, with the president and myself, to dealing with this issue in the session of '96 is a great victory for all of us," said Mr. Taylor of Allegany County.

In a joint statement, the three Democrats said they would sponsor a cut in personal income taxes next year barring "catastrophic federal budget cuts" or a recession.

"We all know Congress is in fact poised to shift much of the budget problems of the national government to the states," Mr. Glendening said later. He estimated that the state's $14.3 billion budget stands to lose $95 million in federal aid.

By next year, Mr. Glendening said, the state should know the scope of federal aid losses and can plan for a permanent tax cut.

But Republicans in the House of Delegates do not plan to give up their fight for immediate tax relief.

House Minority Leader Robert H. Kittleman said the Democrats have exaggerated the size of federal cuts. "There aren't going to be any horrendous cuts," he said.

The Howard County Republican said the governor and Democratic leaders were, in effect, saying, " 'Trust me. Someday we'll do something.' That's what we've been hearing all this session."

Mr. Kittleman argued that the state can afford to cut personal income taxes by 3 percent or 4 percent now -- a point that his party plans to make on the floor as early as today. Republicans will use a procedural maneuver to force a vote on the tax issue, he said.

While Republicans could use the vote in an attempt to embarrass Democrats, the GOP measure is given virtually no chance of passage.

Del. Peter Franchot, a Montgomery County Democrat and co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Federal Relations, disagreed with Republican assertions about the state's ability to cut taxes now.

"The idea that federal cuts are insignificant and there's lots of [state] money lying around almost amounts to a scam by the Republicans on the public," Mr. Franchot said.

State Senate Republicans, like their House counterparts, were clearly unhappy about the delay.

"Nothing beats cutting taxes now," said Minority Whip F. Vernon Boozer of Baltimore County. "Maybe you don't do as much as you would like to do, but I'd like to see some step in that direction."

He said his colleagues will watch what happens in the House of Delegates, but he said he did not think Republican senators would try similar tactics.

The Democrats have other tax cuts they can point to this year.

Both the House and Senate are moving forward on several business and consumer tax cuts that together total almost $50 million.

One bill would give a tax break to businesses that use electric cars or other vehicles powered by alternative fuels.

Another would abolish a tax on equipment, such as computers, used by research and development companies.

The 5 percent sales tax on snack foods would be repealed under a third measure.

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