Reform regressive state income tax
When George F. Harrison says the sales tax is "arguably Maryland's most regressive tax" ("Sales tax rise wrong solution for Md.," Opinion * Commentary, July 13), I interpret this to mean that I'm allowed to argue about the adjective "most." I contend that the most regressive tax we have in Maryland is our state income tax, which exemplifies the very definition of regressive.
Our present seven-page tax table and a worksheet for incomes of more than $100,000 is nothing more than an inefficient, paper-wasting method to state that all taxable net income above $3,000 is taxed at a rate of 4.75 percent.
That is, every extra dollar of income on those whose net income is $3,100 and those who make $3.1 million is taxed at the same flat rate.
Mr. Harrison proposes a "fairer tax system" with a "new rate of 6 percent for incomes over $100,000."
That's certainly heading in the right direction, but why stop there? Why not institute a fairer tax rate that increases slowly and smoothly with increasing income?
As a crude example, the tax rate for that "extra dollar" at a $5,000 income level might be 4 percent; at $50,000, it could be 4.5 percent; at $100,000, 5 percent; and the system might top out with an 8 percent tax rate on incomes of more than $5 million.
The exact level and shape of the tax rate curve can be a task for a tax committee aided by a high school student proficient in algebra.
Nelson L. Hyman
Raising sales tax is wrong medicine
George F. Harrison's column "Sales tax rise wrong solution for Md." (Opinion * Commentary, July 13) makes several strong points against raising the sales tax to deal with Maryland's structural deficit.
The sales tax is regressive. And it would be a cruel irony for this regressive tax to be increased to help offset the state's 10 percent income tax cut of 1998.
Maryland lawmakers should not be making our tax system more regressive.
As to Mr. Harrison's point about the sales tax covering less and less consumer spending, the revenue loss is actually greater than he indicated because of our loss of revenue to Delaware, which has no sales tax, and the inability of Maryland to collect taxes on so-called remote sales made online or through catalogs and 1-800 numbers.
Indeed, a 2004 report from the National Governors Association estimated Maryland will lose $320 million to $501 million in sales tax revenue in fiscal 2008 as a result of such sales.
No wonder sales tax revenue growth lags behind income tax receipts.
Raising the sales tax is neither a long-term nor a fair solution to Maryland's fiscal problem.
Tom S. Saquella
The writer is president of the Maryland Retailers Association.
Temporary tax hike might be best choice
After reading C. Fraser Smith's column "Just a warm-up for the state's big budget-balancing game" (Opinion * Commentary, July 15), I wondered if it would be possible to pass a temporary one-cent sales tax increase.
I have read various articles that suggest such a one-cent tax increase would hurt the people who can least afford it. But if it were temporary - until the government put its $1.5 billion projected budget shortfall behind it - wouldn't that be better than cutting valuable programs or raising several taxes?
We all have to face the fact that something is going to give.
Taxes will be increased or important programs will be cut.
I, for one, would rather pay a one-cent sales tax increase for a year or more than see important programs cut.
Harbor consultants don't respect city
On Monday, I read that Matthew Poe, an architect with the firm Ayers Saint Gross, has suggested that the Constellation should be moved from its Inner Harbor berth ("Proposal for Constellation rocks the boat," July 16).
This follows on the heels of the recommendations from another architect from that firm that Pratt Street be reconfigured to resemble boulevards in Chicago or Paris ("World's grand avenues shape visions of Pratt Street," June 25).
I respect the firm of Ayers Saint Gross and its representatives.
However, I feel that Baltimore would be better served by consultants who show more respect for Baltimore.
Failed war on drugs squanders resources
Finally, Kathleen Parker has stated the obvious: The war on marijuana has been a (pun intended) monumental bust ("It's time to end costly, unfair marijuana prohibition," Opinion * Commentary, July 9).
Spending more than $7 billion a year in public funds to enforce the prohibition on marijuana and to arrest offenders is a huge waste of resources.
This money should be redirected to more urgent issues, such as stopping violent crime and terrorism, improving homeland security and, yes, paying for drug treatment and education.
It makes no sense to hunt down, prosecute and incarcerate citizens for possession of a drug found to be "less harmful to health than alcohol or tobacco."