State to defend new tax rates

Attorney general targets GOP bid to void actions of special General Assembly session

December 31, 2007|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,Sun reporter

The attorney general's office is trying two tactics today to block a Republican-led attempt to stop new state taxes from going into effect this week.

This morning, the attorney general's office plans to appeal a Court of Special Appeals decision that upheld the right of attorneys for a group including five Republican lawmakers to get a deposition from House of Delegates Chief Clerk Mary Monahan.

Monahan is scheduled to be deposed at 4 p.m. today in Easton.

The Republicans filed suit in Carroll County Circuit Court last week, contending that the state Senate violated Maryland's constitution by adjourning for too long during the special legislative session without House approval.

The Republicans' attorneys contend that this was a procedural error that invalidates any legislation passed after that break in the special session, including the new tax package.

But Raquel Guillory, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said last night that the General Assembly's actions were protected.

"Anything that would be said for the deposition is irrelevant because the General Assembly has legislative privilege," she said. "It's irrelevant and wouldn't stop the outcome of the special session anyway."

Attorney Irwin R. Kramer, who is representing the group of Republican legislators, said he didn't think the state's argument has any merit.

"In 20 years of law practice, I have not encountered this degree of resistance and disregard for the rules of discovery that I am encountering in trying to get one disposition, which begs the question: What is Mr. [Attorney General Douglas F.] Gansler so concerned about?" he said.

In the second approach, the attorney general's office plans to file a motion today in Carroll County opposing the Republicans' request for a court order to halt the tax package from taking effect this week.

"The General Assembly passed this legislation to deal with the state's current fiscal situation," Guillory said. "Halting or prohibiting that revenue package from moving forward would cause undue hardship for the state."

Among increases, the sales tax is to rise from 5 percent to 6 percent, the tobacco tax is to increase from $1 to $2, the vehicle titling tax will rise from 5 percent to 6 percent, and the certificate of title fee will more than double, from $23 to $50.

Three new income tax brackets will go into effect, and the state's corporate income tax is rising from 7 percent to 8.25 percent.

Gov. Martin O'Malley called the special session specifically to get new revenues on the books as soon as possible to address a projected deficit of $1.5 billion for fiscal 2009.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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