Ehrlich vows to seek tax break for Maryland military retirees

He also pledges to work for new veterans' home

July 12, 2002|By Chris Guy | Chris Guy,SUN STAFF

OCEAN CITY -- Wearing a Perry Hall Post 130 Sons of the American Legion hat yesterday, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. told veterans gathered here in Maryland's beach resort that as governor he would work to eliminate taxes on the pensions of military retirees and build another home for elderly vets.

Reminding veterans that, at age 44, his memories of the Vietnam War and the military draft are dim, the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate noted his father's service as a Marine in the Korean War.

"I grew up in the post-Vietnam era, which might be the most peaceful and prosperous generation in American history, and I thank you for that," Ehrlich said. "Rather than the 1960s and 1970s anti-military feeling that took hold in the country, this generation in Congress understands that the only thing that invites war is weakness."

Ehrlich said that tax breaks for military pensioners would encourage more retirees to settle in the state, which is home to 490,000 veterans.

Other states exempt it

"I can't think of a more concerned, a more involved group of people," said Ehrlich, who offered no specifics on the cost of such tax breaks. "Some of our neighbors -- New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania -- already exempt retirement pay. It's very important to send a message that the state of Maryland welcomes military retirees."

A spokesman for the campaign of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the leading Democratic candidate, said yesterday that Ehrlich's proposal had too few details for her campaign to offer a response.

"On everything we have put out, we have put out all of the background material, how much it will cost, why we're doing it," said spokesman Michael Morrill. He also said that Maryland's Department of Veteran Affairs has been studying proposals for a new home for retired veterans.

Ehrlich, a four-term 2nd District congressman, outlined the post-Sept. 11 war on terrorism in stark terms, calling it an unconventional fight that has prompted debate about curtailment of some freedoms.

He said swift approval of President Bush's proposed Homeland Security reorganization is crucial in meeting the threat of more terrorist attacks.

"There is no country without freedom, but surely there is no country without security either," Ehrlich said. "There are 100 different government agencies with a piece of the security pie instead of one coherent Cabinet-level agency. Every day without that agency puts us at risk."

The American flag

Ehrlich drew a standing ovation from many of the 2,000 legionnaires who are attending this week's state convention when he called for U.S. Senate approval of a constitutional amendment that would ban desecration of the American flag.

"There is one central symbol for our freedom and it is the flag of the United States," Ehrlich said. "There is one flag and it deserves protection."

Sun staff writer Howard Libit contributed to this article.

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