Business leaders call for tax curb They urge lawmakers also to oppose further health care directives

September 05, 1997|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

West County business leaders warned state legislators yesterday to avoid new telecommunications taxes and new health care requirements during the General Assembly session that starts in January.

Increasing revenue by raising taxes on telecommunications services would likely hit business owners harder than others, Geoffrey L. Johnson, head of the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce's governmental affairs committee, said after a breakfast meeting of chamber members and District 32 delegates.

"It's somehow accepted more by the public for [legislators] to say, 'We'll raise the business bills, but we won't raise the residential bill,' " said Johnson, a Nationwide Insurance Co. agent.

A proposal by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., an Allegany County Democrat, to increase taxes on Internet access, cable television, telephone cards and other services was put on hold during the last General Assembly session.

The delegates -- Republicans Michael W. Burns and James E. Rzepkowski, and Democrat Mary Ann Love -- said requirements to cover additional medical conditions under employee health insurance policies are possible.

However, they added, new taxes of any kind are unlikely to win much support in an election year.

"This is not a bill to bring out in an election year, because it most likely will raise taxes," Rzepkowski said of legislation that would affect the cost of telecommunications services.

About 25 chamber members met with the legislators -- who represent the West County communities of Severn, Hanover and Jessup -- over breakfast at Perry's Grill & Spirits in Odenton.

Thomas C. Funk said he worries about possible new health care requirements.

"If they mandate that, that's going to put a lot of pressure on me," said Funk, who with family members owns the Cho-Son Oak restaurant in Odenton. "I don't want government mandating to me what health care I have to pay for."

In other matters, Love said she is working with the Maryland Insurance Administration to persuade State Farm and other insurance companies to pay for full siding replacements for homes in several Severn neighborhoods that were damaged by hailstorms last year.

Love said she and the other district delegates would meet with state Insurance Commissioner Steven B. Larsen today.

About 70 State Farm customers in the Provinces and nearby developments say the insurer should pay to replace all siding on their homes, not just the damaged areas, because replacement siding will not match the color of the old siding.

Early this year, the homeowners enlisted Love and the other District 32 delegates to pressure the company into changing its policy of paying only to replace damaged siding. The residents said other insurance companies in the community were paying for full replacements.

Insurance administration guidelines say companies cannot ignore a significant mismatch between new and old siding, but the guidelines do not require full replacement, according to Larsen.

4 A hailstorm damaged homes in Severn in November.

The chamber committee will meet with District 33 delegates -- who represent the West County communities of Odenton, Gambrills and Crofton -- next month.

Pub Date: 9/05/97

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