Larry Haines' pretzel logic Delegation's blockage of referendum another reason for charter control.

February 07, 1996

RICHARD T. YATES, one of the three Carroll County commissioners, is right to be angry at the county's General Assembly delegation. Apparently, the county's state delegates and senators believe they know better than the commissioners on how to finance the operations of the county government.

The focus of the conflict is the commissioners' request for a referendum on whether to create a real estate transfer tax. The proposed 1 percent tax on property transactions is intended to raise money for school construction and farmland preservation, two items typically important to the public. The commissioners -- no tax-and-spenders -- think the transfer tax is necessary, but can't win the state enabling legislation necessary to create the tax without the nod of the county's delegation to the General Assembly. The commissioners offered to hold a referendum to prove to the delegation that voters would favor such targeted public investment, but the delegation refuses to approve that either.

Sen. Larry Haines, the delegation chairman, said he already knows that residents don't want new taxes. And the basis for his assertion? The 1994 gubernatorial race, Mr. Haines says, in which Ellen Sauerbrey swamped Parris Glendening in Carroll. It doesn't seem to matter to Mr. Haines that Mrs. Sauerbrey never actually took a position on local transfer taxes. Her anti-tax message was targeted at state taxes and spending.

In reality, the question is how do the commissioners raise the money needed to run county government. The commissioners want the transfer tax. Due to the delegation chair, the county finds itself in a fiscal crisis that doesn't need to be. By refusing to introduce the enabling legislation, Carroll legislators once again demonstrate the virtues of charter government. Are Carroll countians being served when one group of elected officials thwarts the initiatives of the commissioners, who are given responsibility for running county government? If the members of the delegation don't want this tax, then the monkey is on their backs to come up with a substitute source of revenue for desperately needed schools and an inadequately funded farm preservation program. Talk, Mr. Haines, is cheap.

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