Howard council delays vote on seniors tax-cut bill

October 04, 2006|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,sun reporter

Howard County Council Democrats put off a vote last night on a bill that would grant a generous tax-relief package for older homeowners - a permanent 25 percent property tax cut for those 70 and older with household incomes less than $75,000 a year.

The measure - projected to cost the county $2 million to $4 million annually - was sponsored by the council's two Republicans, who expressed surprise at the Democrats' move tabling the matter. The two sides have been bickering over the election-year bill for weeks.

"I'm extremely disappointed that the majority [Democrats] failed to act on behalf of the seniors. My hope is that we will vote on it Oct. 30," said council Chairman Christopher J. Merdon, a Republican who is running for county executive. Merdon said after the session that he plans to immediately "alert the senior community" about the action.

Democrats said they want more time to consider an asset-test amendment that would prevent a senior with great wealth but little income from qualifying. A few more weeks won't matter, they said, because the tax cut would not take effect until July 1.

The council's next voting session, Oct. 30, is the last meeting scheduled before the current council's term ends in December. All three Democrats said they plan to support the bill once it is amended.

Councilman Ken Ulman, an elder law attorney who is the Democratic nominee for county executive, said, "There will be a senior tax cut passed Oct. 30. I don't know how to say that more clearly."

Calvin Ball, a Democrat who was appointed to the council in April, moved to table the bill, charging that Merdon and co-sponsor Charles C. Feaga have operated in a partisan way on the issue.

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