Howard Republicans' anti-tax petition drive fails

Only half the required 10,000 signatures collected

August 14, 2010|By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun

A Republican-sponsored petition drive intended to require a super-majority of County Council votes to increase taxes has failed to collect enough signatures to place the issue before voters in November.

Ken Aldrich, who organized the drive for the local GOP, said his team collected about 5,000 of the 10,000 signatures required to put the measure on the ballot. Monday is the deadline for submitting the names.

"We lose. We're not going to pursue it any more" this year, Aldrich said. The charter amendment would have required four of the five County Council members to approve any general tax increase instead of the three-vote simple majority now required. It is the second time the same issue has failed in six years. Republicans tried it in 2004 but came up short.

"We wish we would have won this time," Aldrich said. He said Republicans would revive the issue for 2012 if enough GOP council candidates win council seats. Currently, the Howard County executive, Ken Ulman, is a Democrat, as are four of the five County Council members.

Republicans have generally blamed the failure on practical problems like finding places to collect names and recruiting volunteers to do the collecting, insisting that public opinion is on their side. Senate Minority Leader Allan H. Kittleman, a Republican who helped start the drive, tried to put a positive face on the defeat.

"It's very difficult to get signatures," he said.

But Howard's Democrats have pointed out that they have balanced four budgets without raising general taxes, and without using the county's rainy-day fund. Several Democrats, including West Columbia County Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty, have characterized the referendum drive as an election year political ploy, which Republicans deny. Ulman said allowing a majority of council members elected by the public to make decisions is not a problem.

"I think representative democracy has generally worked pretty well in Howard County," Ulman said. larry.carson@baltsun.com

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