Democrats offer a mixed review of tax refund

The Political Game

Plans: Some Maryland officials will spend the money, while others say the cut will cause future problems.

September 04, 2001|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

THOSE FEDERAL tax refund checks -- the most tangible early accomplishment of President Bush -- are landing with a predictable thud in the mailboxes of Maryland's predominantly Democratic political leadership.

When asked at his Texas ranch last month what he intended to do with his $600, Bush said he would make a charitable donation. It's the right thing to do, he said, after it was pointed out that his plans would not stimulate the economy as much as the consumer spending he had promoted.

Maryland politicos aren't in a big-spending mood, either. They're using the money for routine purchases, or grumbling that they are getting it at all.

"I'm not looking forward to it, and I'm not looking forward to the prospect of [Bush] dipping into the Social Security surplus to pay for this misunderstanding," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller of Prince George's County.

"I really wish they hadn't done it," said Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. "Unfortunately, you know what happens: The federal government cuts taxes, the state government cuts taxes, and I was forced to raise it on a local level because of their reductions in dollars that are flowing into the city. I'd rather see investments in our people again, and investments in our work force."

Gov. Parris N. Glendening said he had his money in hand for about six hours when he got a call from his son, Raymond, saying the cost of this semester's textbooks at West Virginia University was more than expected. The governor said he would probably use the remaining few dollars for some "refreshments" with friends.

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend said she would "probably spend it on my daughter's college tuition." Kate Townsend, 17, graduated from Towson High last spring and is at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

Even the state Senate's Republican leader, Martin G. Madden of Howard County, said he is "not planning on making any big end-of-summer purchases" as the nation's economy teeters. "I'll put it into the family checking account," he said. Some will get used on back-to-school supplies, and the rest will get transferred to savings.

The only politician willing to acknowledge having fun with the money was House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. of Allegany County.

"I'm probably going to gamble it away," Taylor said, noting a fondness for lottery tickets. He also said he had recently ordered his first three dozen crabs of the summer and was astounded at the $175 cost. "I might splurge and buy a dozen hard-shell crabs," he said.

GOP's Steele becoming a television personality

He hasn't hired an agent, but Maryland Republican Party Chairman Michael S. Steele is becoming something of a television star. He has made his second appearance on Politically Incorrect, the late-night ABC show with Bill Maher.

"He's a great guest," said Marilyn Wilson, the show's executive producer and a Crofton native who graduated from Arundel High in the 1970s. (She was Marilyn Boies then.) "When you come and do a show like our show, you may be the lone conservative voice on the panel. ... He sticks to his guns, he has a sense of humor about himself. He won't back down on an issue. He's like a dog with a bone."

Steele was booked for the show that aired Aug. 14, along with American Civil Liberties Union President Nadine Strossen, actor Joe Mantegna and comedian Bruce Vilanch. He raised eyebrows over his position that employers have the right to administer drug tests to employees.

"I've had a lot of people in the state say its good to see Maryland Republicans represented nationally," said Steele, who also had a show appearance in April. "I go on, and I call it like I see it."

Miller removes Mooney from Senate Judicial panel

Outspoken state Sen. Alex X. Mooney, a Frederick County Republican, has been removed from the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee after using his position to filibuster a gay rights bill and fight gun-control legislation.

Miller said he made the switch for "the good of the Senate."

Committee Chairman Walter M. Baker, a Cecil County Democrat, wanted Mooney off, Miller said. Against his will, Mooney was shifted to the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, and his judicial spot will be taken by Sen. Nancy Jacobs, a Harford County Republican.

Mooney is thought to be a target when Glendening unveils his legislative redistricting plan.

Sun staff writer Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

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