Taxes spell doomsday for Md. boating

March 12, 2012

Once again, we have our state legislature using scare tactics to justify more tax increases that we do not need ("Budget would slash education, police aid," March 6). They threaten to cut funding for essential police and fire services and the like if they don't raise taxes again and call their response to Gov.Martin O'Malley's budget a "Doomsday Budget." Well, the real Doomsday Budget will more likely be what they pass. This is no time to mirror the mistakes made by other states and the federal government where spending is out of control. This continuation of their tax and spend mentality at a time when the economy and many of our state citizens are hurting will cause much harm to our state and it's citizens.

Now I see that lawmakers, along with Mr. O'Malley, are going after the boating and marine industry that has already been hit hard by the recession and high gasoline prices. First, it was the increase in the gasoline tax, then an increase in registration fees, then a "marine gathering fee" if more than 50 boats "gather," and now a luxury tax on the sale of new and used boats. What next, a tax for those who get a tan while boating or fishing?

Maryland has a wonderful resource in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. If our state would establish a program of intense economic development centered on developing the marine trades to their fullest, the multiplier effect would be tremendous. Boat and yacht manufacturing, marine repair services and supplies, marinas, fishing, yacht clubs, hotels, restaurants, etc. would all benefit from an environment that encouraged business rather than taxed it do death.

The marine industry employs around 35,000 in Maryland, but this is declining. The number of boats registered in Maryland has dropped from 205,000 in 2007 to 193,000 in 2010. Many marinas and clubs have vacant slips for the upcoming season, and surely employees will be let go or have their hours reduced. The last time a "luxury tax" was enacted by the federal government in 1991 it nearly killed the national boating industry. It was repealed in 1993, but the industry was left in a shambles. We should follow the example of several other coastal states that have actually lowered taxes on boats and yachts to encourage their business. Rather than have large yachts pass by Maryland on the way to more favorable waters, we should be encourage them to stay and spend money in our state. If this happened, all the businesses (and their employees) mentioned above would benefit.

The impending damage to our marine industry is just a small example of what further tax increases will likely do to other businesses and employment in the state if our "tax and spend" governor and legislature raise taxes rather than reduce spending.

The state needs to tighten its belt until the economy improves and not spend money that we do not have. The taxpayers of Maryland do this to balance their personal budgets. Why can't our elected officials do the same?

Gerald Stank, Baldwin

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