Goldstein made a complex department look simple Comptroller's job touches 'just about everybody,' aide says

July 07, 1998|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

An article in The Sun yesterday overstated one of the responsibilities of the Maryland comptroller's office. The comptroller is responsible for overseeing all tax revenue taken into the state treasury. The remaining 30 percent of the state's revenue is handled directly by the Maryland treasurer's office.

The Sun regrets the error.

Louis L. Goldstein made being comptroller of Maryland's treasury look easy.

The reality is that the comptroller's office is a complex and powerful department, a huge operation -- 1,150 employees and a $93.7 million annual budget -- that oversees all the money that comes into and goes out of the state treasury.

The comptroller serves as the state tax collector -- and the person who co-signs with the Maryland treasurer all checks for payment of the state's bills, including those for the state employee payroll. Not only does the office serve as the state's internal accounting firm, it also provides the data processing services for most state agencies.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

But the most important role of Maryland comptroller -- a post that by law pays $100,000 a year -- is serving on the three-person Board of Public Works, which oversees the expenditure of billions of dollars each year. The other two members are the governor and the state treasurer.

"Lots of agencies touch lots of people, but we touch just about everybody," said Marvin A. Bond, an assistant state comptroller.

The structure of the Maryland's comptroller's office is unique among state comptrollers' offices around the nation, agencies that generally provide only accounting and bill-paying functions, Bond said.

Goldstein was best known in his role as income tax collector, but the office also oversees collection of the state's sales, gasoline, tobacco and real estate taxes and the excise tax on beer, wine and liquor.

By law, the comptroller chairs another powerful panel, the Board Revenue Estimates, which makes recommendations to the governor, based on the amount of money taken in through taxes, for how much the state can spend in the annual budget.

One of the office's lesser known but important functions lies in its Alcohol & Tobacco Tax Unit, which controls, regulates and issues licenses for the wholesale manufacture, sale, transportation and distribution of alcohol and tobacco. Another section of that unit regulates advertising, promotional activities and other trade practices in both industries.

In addition to the Board of Public Works and Board of Revenue Estimates, the comptroller is a member of the Maryland Industrial Development Financing Authority, the Banking Board for state-chartered banks, the Capital Debt Affordability Committee, the Maryland Food Center Authority, and the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation.

The comptroller also sits on the Board of State Canvassers, the Hall of Records Commission, the State Use Industries Advisory Committee and the state Employees' Health Insurance Advisory Council and chairs the Board of Trustees for the Maryland State Retirement and Pension Systems, a $28 billion operation.

Pub Date: 7/07/98

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