The least painful tax

Anne Arundel: Executive's proposed airport car rental tax is sensible in capped county.

January 24, 2001

THE EASIEST TAX to assess is one that doesn't hurt your constituents.

That's why Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens didn't look like her usual exasperated and worried self when she announced plans to seek a local tax on rental cars at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The tax makes sense. It's painless to local taxpayers; it's consistent with airport taxes at other airports, including Dulles International Airport and Reagan National Airport; and it would create a source of revenue for a county that caps its property-tax revenue.

The details of the proposed rental car tax haven't been hammered out yet. County officials and the Anne Arundel delegation to the General Assembly are discussing whether the rate should be $1 or $2 per car. The state should limit the amount so that it would be modest. A hefty tax could place Maryland and BWI in a bad light.

It's easy to understand why Ms. Owens wants the legislation. The county has many needs and limited resources. She gave big pay increases last year to police and firefighters. She's trying to build two new libraries. School construction and renovation needs remain great. Road maintenance is always a problem.

The car-rental tax could raise $1 million in revenue, according to one estimate. That's not everything Anne Arundel needs, but it would be an important boost to sagging county revenues.

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