Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

May 09, 2004

Supermajority idea is undemocratic

Two of Howard County's Republican council members recently proposed an amendment to the county charter that would require a supermajority (66 percent) of council members to support an income or property tax rate increase.

This proposal is undemocratic because the law would deny 65 percent of the people (and their representatives) the right to raise county taxes for government services they deem necessary for their "general welfare" whenever a minority (35 percent) of the people (and their representatives) oppose that decision. Mr. Merdon's argument was that "a tax increase should be a convincing enough argument to get four or five [council members] to agree to it, ... If you can't, you haven't stated your case clearly enough."

But if that argument is true for tax increases then why isn't it true for other government legislation such as criminal statutes and unwise tax cuts that lock government into crushingly stupid "borrow-and-spend" policies (i.e. Bush tax cuts of the last three years)? Moreover, such a proposal is hypocritically simple-minded because it allows stupid "borrow-and-spend" councils to cut essential government revenue with just a simple majority while restricting less-stupid "fund-what-you-need" councils from raising the revenue needed for a self-sustaining responsible budget without a supermajority.

Whether our conservative Howard Countians like it or not, democracy only requires a simple majority approval for all (equally important) legislation, and either you accept that idea or you don't accept democracy, which is a problem for ultra-conservatives who only support democracy when it benefits their economic agenda. The truth is that Howard County didn't just have a simple majority for the tax increases but a 60 percent majority in the council and with the executive's support too, which means there was much more than enough political support for the tax increase proposal.

Moreover, I think our county's ultra-conservative tax opponents ought to face the fact that there is a down side to democracy and that is losing a political battle, as those of us who oppose the just-barely supported horrendous Bush economic (and foreign policy) policies can attest.

Jim Fitzgerald

Columbia

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