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Annapolis notes

March 09, 1997

Partisan politics erupts over tax issue

ANNAPOLIS - Partisan politics hit the State House in full force last week when Republicans and Democrats squared off over - what else? - cutting taxes.

The fight began last Tuesday morning when Republicans attempted to bring to the floor their tax cut plan, which cut taxes immediately by 6 percent. GOP lawmakers wanted to vote the plan up or down that day.

The Democrats, who were still trying to sort out a tax plan that could get the support of the majority the 141-member House, didn't want a vote.

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"The decision should be made in this room, where the light shines and where everyone can put a red (no) or green (yes) vote up on the board," Minority Leader Robert H. Kittleman, R-Howard, said.

Democrats, who control the House as the majority party, urged caution in trying to delay a tax vote until later this month. To stir some emotions, some likened the Republican plan, which is based heavily on budget cuts, to supply-side Reaganomics.

"We don't want to bring that kind of Republican fiscal irresponsibility to Maryland," said Del. James C. Rosapepe, D-Prince George's.

But the Republicans weren't through, saying time was running out for a tax cut vote during this legislative session, which ends April 7.

"We need to do something. We need to do something in a hurry," said Del. Richard A. LaVay, R-Montgomery.

Even though they were ultimately unsuccessful in forcing the tax-cut vote, the Republicans went down with a flurry of criticisms about the Democrats.

"If this is how you choose to duck the issue, fine," said Del. David R. Brinkley, R-Frederick/Carroll.

Pension bailout prospects improve

The chances of the Glendening administration coming up with the money to pay for the partial bailout of Hagerstown's pension debt crisis seem to be improving.

Secretary of Budget and Management Frederick W. Puddester said last week he is still looking for where the $5.02 million for the city could come from, but he seemed confident it could be found.

"We have to do something," Puddester said.

He said he was sympathetic to the plight of Hagerstown, which had made proper pension payments to the state retirement system for years. Only after new pension law was passed last year that the $9.96 million shortfall was discovered.

"They did what they were asked to do," Puddester said.

Puddester also took time during his briefing with reporters to get in his own jabs at the Republican tax plan, saying it had "a very high rhetoric-to-substance ratio."

As an example, he pointed to the one of the perennial targets of fiscal conservatives - dumping the governor's yacht. That would save taxpayers $204,000, but come far short of the kind of savings needed for tax relief.

"This is not the way to go," Puddester said.

- By Guy Fletcher

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