House GOP seeks additional cut of 5 percent in Maryland taxes

State's $1 billion surplus noted in making proposal

February 10, 2000|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Moving to reclaim a bread-and-butter issue from their Democratic rivals, House Republicans called yesterday for an additional 5 percent cut in Maryland's income tax over the next five years.

"The current surplus of over $1 billion demonstrates that Maryland citizens are being overtaxed," Del. James F. Ports Jr. of Baltimore County said at a news conference by leaders of the 35-member House Republican caucus.

The measure, if approved by the General Assembly, would be in addition to the phased-in 10 percent tax cut passed in 1997. The extra 5 percent reduction would save taxpayers about $270 million a year once fully in effect.

The GOP caucus is also supporting a proposal to speed up implementation of the 1997 cut, which is scheduled to take full effect in 2002. The proposed acceleration also has won support from leading Assembly Democrats. But they have been cool to the idea of further tax relief, saying it would be prudent to wait and see if the strong economy continues.

Republican leaders said that with a $1 billion surplus, the state can afford the additional 5 percent cut -- or an even bigger one.

"Do we think we could do more? Absolutely," Ports said. "Would we be called irresponsible? Probably."

Beyond the income tax cut acceleration, the Assembly's Democratic leaders are pushing to reduce or abolish the state inheritance tax, an idea first floated in recent years by Republican legislators.

Under the Republican income tax bill, the 5 percent savings would be reached by lowering the top tax rate and increasing personal exemptions. Such a division would allow all earners to receive some tax relief.

"We think tax cuts are for everybody," said Del. Robert L. Flanagan of Howard County, the House GOP whip.

In Annapolis

Today's highlights:

House of Delegates meets, 10 a.m. House chamber.

Senate meets, 10 a.m. Senate chamber.

House Ways and Means Committee briefing on taxing Internet commerce, 2: 30 p.m. House office building, Room 110.

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