Thursday, February 03, 2005

Taxing Good Sense

In a move that suggests Speaker of the House, Mike Busch (D-Annapolis), has trouble learning from his mistakes, Mr. Busch is proposing to roll back an increase in the state property tax enacted in 2003. In the 2002 elections, Republicans up and down the slate, from Mr. Ehrlich to candidates for the House of Delegates, uniformly ripped sitting Democrats in the House and Senate, and the aspiring Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, on the issue of the projected billion dollar deficit that had been racked up under their watch. The budget deficit was one part bad luck, the economy had recently taken a downturn, and one part poor management, the state Democrats, hoping to share in the anti-tax afterglow their Republican counterparts cultivate, had cut income tax in the State, and now were coming up short.

Following those elections closely, I didn't see one instance where incumbent Democrats were able to win the political points they had hoped their tax cutting fervor would produce. Instead, time and again, they were shredded by Republicans in debates, forums, and in the press on the issue of fiscal irresponsibility. Their Republican-emulating formula led to the debacle that was the 2002 elections, where Republicans took the governor's office for the first time in over 30 years, and gained several seats in the Assembly.

Despite Speaker Busch's assurances that, "The time is right for this ... We just think it's an opportune time to repeal the tax increase that Governor Ehrlich initiated in his first year in office," the time is not right. As Senate President, Mike Miller (D-Calvert), asserted, cutting property taxes this year would not be responsible, given the state's unmet needs in areas such as education, health care and the environment. By rolling back the property taxes, the State would lose more than $165 million in annual revenue.

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