Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

December 24, 2006

Tax reform can help state meet its needs

An overhaul of Maryland's tax structure is long overdue ("Md. tax reform gains ground," Dec. 19).

As Marylanders, we have collectively demanded many things from our state government - a great public school education for our children, affordable higher education, a cleaner Chesapeake Bay, a better transportation system including better mass transportation and a program to sustain farm and forested land.

Doing all of these things costs more money than the state is collecting in revenue. Holding the line on spending just will not work.

During the Ehrlich administration, the governor raised property taxes and cut some spending while also raiding transportation and open-space funds. This allowed for a temporary fix to balance the state budget. But it did not resolve the long-term budget shortfall Maryland faces.

By electing Mayor Martin O'Malley as governor, Marylanders have shown a willingness to accept long-term solutions to our revenue problem.

This includes a progressive look at our tax structure and an analysis of how to raise additional revenue without disproportionately impacting those who have the least.

Sue Fothergill

Baltimore

Tobacco tax increase good politics, policy

As Maryland's General Assembly leaders consider the successful Virginia tax reform legislation of a couple of years ago, they should note that a key part of that legislation was an historic increase in Virginia's tobacco tax ("Md. tax reform gains ground," Dec. 19).

Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner courageously argued that his state should not have the lowest cigarette tax in the country, and that raising the tax would bring in needed revenue and save children from tobacco addiction.

Although Virginia is one of the top tobacco-growing states in the country, the state's then-Republican-led legislature agreed to the tobacco tax increase, which accomplished both of Mr. Warner's goals.

Similarly, many Democratic and Republican governors and legislatures across the South and the rest of the country have enacted tobacco tax increases over the past few years.

In the past few weeks, Republican governors in Indiana and South Carolina have called for substantial tobacco tax increases in their states.

Particularly given the broad support here in Maryland for a tobacco tax increase from hundreds of faith, community, labor, business and health provider organizations across the state, I hope that Maryland's leaders will also see that increasing the tobacco tax to reduce teen smoking and expand health care and drug treatment is both good policy and good politics.

Vincent DeMarco

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative.

Families can't afford O'Malley's promises

How can Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller say with a straight face, as The Sun put it, that the "7.9 percent growth rate [in state spending] is necessary to give [Gov.-elect] Martin O'Malley temporary flexibility to meet his campaign promises" ("Spending plan tops revenue," Dec. 20)?

Has anyone considered that his campaign promises might have been irresponsible?

My husband and I are one of those "working families" he continually talked about representing. But a hike in our taxes, along with the big electricity price hike that is coming, doesn't look like help to me.

I really don't care if the governor-elect fulfills his promises.

I'm too busy trying to make ends meet.

Anne G. Sunderland

Timonium

Use huge pay raise to help homeowners

A raise of $83,000 for Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy is an obscene amount for Mayor Martin O'Malley to authorize ("Jessamy to be city's highest paid," Dec. 21).

The Sun recently published a series exposing the excessive penalties imposed on homeowners in ground rent disputes ("On Shaky Ground," Dec. 10-Dec. 12).

Perhaps the mayor or Mrs. Jessamy should offer all or part of this salary windfall as a fund to help property owners caught up in the ground rent mess save their homes.

The cost of this salary increase could save the homes of 50 or more homeowners a year while legislation to change the ground rent laws is debated.

Geoff Ziskind

Lutherville

Develop transit plan before building ICC

At the heart of the controversy over whether to build the Intercounty Connector is the fact that the State Highway Administration never considered whether the estimated $2.4 billion the state plans to spend on the highway would produce more relief from traffic congestion if invested elsewhere ("Two lawsuits filed against ICC," Dec. 21).

This case is particularly vexing because the state's own traffic projections show that the ICC, for all its expense, would only provide marginal benefits.

Political leaders from across the state should look long and hard at the ICC.

While Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. fast-tracked the ICC, other important transportation projects have been sidetracked and not just in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

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