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Taylor calls for tax relief in Maryland

December 04, 1997

Taylor calls for tax relief in Maryland

By GUY FLETCHER

Staff Writer

Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. Wednesday called for reducing Maryland's property tax by as much as $85 million - a possible payoff to taxpayers made possible by a budget surplus fueled by a strong economy.

Taylor said the state's $15.5 billion budget has a $311 million surplus, which could increase to $350 million by the time the General Assembly starts its annual 90-day legislative session next month.

"I just think the surplus is big enough that we can send some of it back to the taxpayers," the Allegany County Democrat said after speaking to members of the Hagerstown Rotary Club at the Venice Inn-Best Western.

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Maryland taxes 21 cents for every $100 of a home's assessed value, which is based on 40 percent of market value. A home worth $80,000 has an annual state real estate tax of $67.20.

With nearly 1.9 million households in the state, Taylor's proposal would mean an average of $45.41 of annual tax relief per home.

With the rest of the surplus, Taylor proposed placing another $75 million to $85 million into the state's cash reserves, with the bulk of the surplus - as much as $180 million - to help pay for several "front-burner" issues expected to emerge during the session, including:

* Primary and secondary education. Taylor said inequities in the state's funding of schools need to be addressed so that at-risk children, no matter where they live in the state, receive the proper education.

"We cannot function as an economically, culturally prosperous community with dumb, uneducated people," he said.

* Higher education. Taylor said the state's colleges and universities were hurt by the recession of the early 1990s and haven't had the money to catch up since then.

"Now with the economy we are in, we have an excellent opportunity to move forward," he said.

* Transportation. Money in the state's transportation trust fund is dwindling, in part because taxpayers throughout the state are subsidizing mass-transit systems in the metropolitan areas, Taylor said. He said extra funds would help keep highways in good condition.

* Public safety. Taylor said a prison bed shortage means more money is needed for the state's correctional system.

Taylor isn't the first politician to talk about cutting the state's share of the property tax. Last month Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, a gubernatorial candidate, proposed eliminating the tax altogether.

Taylor himself was widely rumored to be pondering a gubernatorial bid next year, but decided last summer to instead seek re-election to the Cumberland legislative seat he has held since 1975.

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