As the Carroll County commissioners continue their push for a transfer tax to help fund local capital improvements, the leader of Carroll's legislative delegation vows to oppose the proposed levy on real estate transactions.
"I am not for this tax, and there is not public support for it," said Sen. Larry E. Haines, the county's senior legislator and the owner of a Westminster real estate business. "We have to stop taxing and start governing."
The tax could generate as much as $7.5 million in annual revenues for the county, an amount that would allow the county to borrow as much as $75 million for building projects such as road improvements, upgrades to police and fire services, and school construction and renovation.
The county would assess the 1 percent tax, which would be in addition to the half-percent transfer tax the state charges, at the time a property sale is settled. The buyer of a $100,000 home, for example, would pay an additional $1,000 in taxes.
"We have to have alternative funding sources as tools to work with, especially when the state is taking away funding from various programs," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich.
The transfer tax proposal will top the agenda Jan. 29 when the delegation holds its annual public hearing in Westminster on legislative initiatives, Haines said. Several delegates have said they want to gauge public support before deciding on the tax, which must win approval from the General Assembly.
"So far, I am not overwhelmed by public sentiment for this tax," Haines said. "What is overwhelming is the county staff efforts for it."
Commissioner Perry L. Jones Jr. said he is urging supporters to attend the hearing and voice their opinions.
"This is the only way we can diversify our tax base," Jones said.
In a meeting with the Commission on Aging this week, the commissioners urged seniors to lobby the delegation for the tax.
"Your support is crucial," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge. "There is no way the delegation will decide until hearing from the public."
Gouge expressed concern that scheduling the delegation hearing so close to the bill filing deadline will make Carroll late in placing its proposals before the legislature. The delegation met in Annapolis late Wednesday to set a hearing date and found the last Saturday of the month was the only date when they would all be available.
Feb. 4 is the "legislative guarantee date" for introducing bills, but Haines has introduced bills as late as March, he said.
"We have never lost a bill, except for a bill we didn't want," Haines said. "There is no problem with timing. We will take our bills in the Monday after the hearing and we are all going to be here in Annapolis until April 12."
If the majority of Carroll's all-Republican delegation - four delegates and three senators - votes favorably on the transfer tax, it will probably become a bill before the General Assembly. Local bills usually win courtesy approval from the legislature.
"I don't know where the delegation is with this proposal," Haines said. "They will not show their hands until they are ready."
The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. Jan. 29 in Room 3 of the County Office Building, 225 N. Center St. in Westminster.