Candidates disagree about the trash tax 'Premature to remove' it, former police chief says

January 30, 1998|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

In a light warm-up for the elections ahead, 10 candidates for five Howard County offices gently traded views last night on the county's perennial issues of growth, taxes and schools.

One of the few issues to draw out differences among the candidates was the annual $125 trash tax paid by county homeowners since 1996.

Councilman Dennis R. Schrader, a Republican running for county executive, has proposed killing the tax now that Howard has a revenue surplus of $12 million.

But his rivals in that race, Republican Councilman Charles C. Feaga and the former police chief, James N. Robey, a Democrat, said the trash tax brings needed revenue.

"Don't go crazy because we've got a little bit of extra this year," Feaga said.

Robey recalled his seven years as police chief when budget shortfalls sometimes forced cutbacks. "It's very premature to remove that tax," he said.

About 35 voters attended the forum at the county office building in Ellicott City last night. The forum was sponsored by the Howard County Citizens Association.

The exchanges were collegial and with few partisan differences.

Aside from the county executive race, one of the most closely watched elections this year will be the Republican battle for the west county seat on the County Council.

Feaga is leaving it after three terms. Gail Bates, assistant to county executive Charles I. Ecker, and former Howard GOP chairman Allan Kittleman are running for the seat.

Last night, Bates emphasized her experience in Ecker's administration and spent much of her time explaining his positions. Kittleman focused his comments on shrinking government.

He stopped short of endorsing the repeal of the trash tax but said, "If we have a surplus, that means we took too much in taxes . You have to give it back."

Bates warned against repealing the trash tax. "I don't think flip-flopping from year to year is good public policy."

Growth was another major theme, though all the candidates agreed on the need for cautious growth policy.

Pub Date: 1/30/98

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