Philanthropist or… Robin Hood?

November 17, 2011


I think most would agree Harford County Executive David Craig's decision to give a bonus to Harford County teachers is most appropriate and deserved.  What raises concern, however, is whether Mr. Craig has the authority to use public funds in such a manner?

We as Harford county tax payers paid more tax than was necessary to fund the county's budget which resulted in a tax surplus. Can the county executive utilize that surplus of public funds to give bonuses to his county employees? On a micro-economic level, this would be akin to an individual having extra federal and state taxes taken out of each paycheck to ensure that there would be no tax liability incurred at the end of the year. The extra tax deductions would generate a tax surplus for the individual but instead of receiving a tax refund the government spends that individual's tax surplus on a cause of its choice.

Put another way, if the county's tax revenue and budget expense had been balanced, there would not have been a surplus to use on bonuses.  Would it then be considered appropriate if Mr. Craig solicited payment from each of the county's taxpayers in order to raise $6 million for bonuses? I would think not. 

I know Mr. Craig's intentions are philanthropic and that the teachers of Harford County are most deserving of a bonus. The problem is that Mr. Craig is being a philanthropist with other people's money; $6 million of other people's money!  He is taking a portion of the taxpaying citizens' wealth and distributing it to those whom he sees fit, in effect acting like a modern day Robin Hood.  What is particularly concerning is that there are taxpayers in this county who do not earn as much income as some county employees. Is it fair that the excess tax paid by individuals earning less be used to augment the income of those earning more?  

Steve Tobia


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