Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

August 04, 2007

Incomplete data discredit tax report

A recent report from the state comptroller's office reviewed tax payments by the state's largest corporations ("Taxes avoided by many Md. firms," July 24). But the report is misleading because it lacks important disclaimers and attempts to draw conclusions based on data from an incomplete tax year.

When the state comptroller's office similarly divulged the names and tax information of Maryland businesses in 2004 and 2005 for the 2001-2003 tax years, the office stated in cover letters to those reports that it was unable to match related corporate entities from their data system and, therefore, "this information most likely does not provide a full picture of the corporate income taxes paid by many `businesses' as they are commonly perceived."

No such disclaimer was included with this year's report.

Even more troubling is the fact that this year's report was based on preliminary data for tax year 2005, even though the report's cover page acknowledges that "tax year 2005 information remains incomplete, as returns for many corporations whose tax year begins after July 1 are not yet due."

What facts do we know?

We know that Maryland has collected record amounts of corporate income taxes in recent years, with the $820 million received in fiscal year 2006 more than double the receipts from just three years earlier.

We also know that Maryland's corporate income tax system is consistent with that used by most other states.

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce supports state Comptroller Peter Franchot's rigorous enforcement of Maryland's tax laws.

But before we change those laws, let's base tax policy on facts, not conjecture.

Kathy Snyder

Annapolis

The writer is president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

Indifferent citizens trash our waterways

It was fitting that on the same day The Sun ran an article about how plastic bottle recycling has dropped off, I chose to take a run along the Gwynns Falls bike trail ("Recycling of plastic bottles flags," July 29).

An afternoon shower forced me to seek shelter under a covered bridge along the trail near Leon Day Park, as the Gwynns Falls swelled quickly because of a surge of storm run-off from Northwest Baltimore and Northwest Baltimore County.

I watched in dismay as thousands (and I do mean thousands) of plastic bottles, styrofoam cups and containers, along with a couple of basketballs and tons of detritus swept down toward the Middle Branch and Inner Harbor.

I am a reporter (for WYPR) and therefore it is unsavory for me to advocate any particular remedy to this ecological nightmare playing itself out whenever the heavens open up.

But a sign along the trail led me to understand a simple point: It noted that one out of 20 Marylanders lives along the Gwynns Falls drainage basin.

Clearly, far too many of those 280,000 or so people don't give a damn about the waterway or the harbor or Chesapeake Bay.

Bob Constantini

Baltimore

City's death toll is a shocking failure

Anne E. Brodsky's column "Lessons in a king's death" (Opinion

Commentary, July 29) cited a report from the Associated Press that as of the end of June, 178 civilians had been killed by insurgents this year in Afghanistan.

The Maryland section of The Sun also reported that as of July 29 there had been 181 homicides in Baltimore this year.

Does this statistic shock the citizens of our city? It should.

It is shamefully amazing that the number of deaths in the city is on par with the number of deaths caused by the insurgents in a war-torn nation.

The mayor and the city police department should be ashamed of themselves for their lack of success in preventing this tragic death toll.

If these figures are not a wake-up call to Mayor Sheila Dixon and our new police chief, then they should both offer their resignations and let someone who has the wherewithal, ideas and leadership ability to drive these numbers down take over.

And until and unless the "no-snitching" culture which dominates some city communities is changed, these neighborhoods will continue to suffer high crime rates (including high homicides rates) in spite of the best efforts of the city and the police.

This problem is the community's responsibility as well as that of the city government.

Rich Scanlan

Baltimore

Focus on education to really curb crime

There is a glaring disparity between what Baltimoreans say they want most for the city and what the city really needs.

The Sun poll reported in "City seems `obsessed' with crime" (July 15) found that 68 percent of residents surveyed feel crime "is the most important issue or challenge facing the city today," compared with only 16 percent who voiced the same concern over education.

These findings demand an awakening.

Fighting crime has become our consuming focus.

Mayor Sheila Dixon has emphasized public exposure of those who commit gun crimes. ("Shining a light on gun offenses," July 23) But wouldn't this only further glamorize gun violence?

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