Once considered a sure bet, lawmakers now say that a cut in Maryland income taxes is fading.
"We're in the third quarter of the game and we don't even know where the goal line is," said Del. Bruce Poole, who could have been talking about the Maryland Legislature or the Maryland Terrapins. It was hard to say.
Del. Bob McKee said state lawmakers are mistakenly putting a priority on tax-cutting, when the citizens are actually more worried about other issues, such as vehicle emissions testing.
Bob. Can we talk? You lop about 10 percent off my state tax bill and you can test my car for emissions, steroids, booze, crack, pregnancy and competence in math, for all I care.
McKee did have a good point, though. He said every bill that cuts income tax makes up the revenue through some other tax. One plan would have saved $65 a year in income taxes, but would have cost the consumer $59 a year in new cable television and telephone taxes. The net savings would buy "three Happy Meals at McDonald's," McKee said.
Which brings up my next point: Nobody cares about taxes or emissions half as much as they do about the news that McDonald's is lowering the price of a Big Mac to 55 cents.
Even at the gym over the weekend, that's what people were talking about. They wanted to hurry up and get off the treadmill so they could go to the breadmill. This isn't really fair; molecular biologists have long theorized there are actual traces of meat lurking somewhere inside the three-tiered bun, although this is just a vague, working hypothesis that probably can't be proved one way or the other without large federal grants.
But a 55-cent Big Mac could be trouble. If lawmakers really want to do something good for the community they will ban cheap food in Hagerstown.
There's a long-standing rumor, true or not I don't know, that a national seafood chain that featured an all-you-can-eat bar closed its Hagerstown franchise because it was impossible to turn a profit, so voracious were local appetites.
This weekend I went to Burger Park U.S.A. for the first time. The guy in front of us got down out of his big diesel pickup, bent over to the squawk box and ordered six hamburgers - a meal that set him back about two bucks.
The clerk still couldn't hear, so he began flashing her signs: Five fingers and a thumb. He looked exactly like a third-base coach. Lucky there wasn't someone with him, or he would have used up his fingers and been forced to take off a boot and sock to complete the order.
So let's think. A 10 percent tax cut would save you about $200 a year. Currently, Big Macs cost a little over $2. If they're dropped to 55 cents and your family of three can stomach them once a week you will save about $242 a year, which is FORTY-TWO DOLLARS MORE THAN THE STATE'S PROPOSED INCOME TAX CUT.
Isn't that great? The Bob McKee Theory Of Taxation As It Relates To Fast Food comes through again.
Unfortunately there's one more similar corollary; tax cuts, like fast food bargains, are generally only around for a limited time.
Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.