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Poole votes against tax cut

March 04, 1998|By GUY FLETCHER

Poole votes against tax cut

ANNAPOLIS - The Maryland House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved legislation Tuesday that would seek a cut in the state property tax, but one Washington County lawmaker balked at the plan.

Del. D. Bruce Poole, a Democrat, said the measure, which asks the state Board of Public Works to reduce the property tax next year by 5 cents, benefits wealthy landowners more than those who own smaller homes or those who rent.

"That is just wrong. It's wrong, it's wrong, it's wrong," said Poole, of Beaver Creek.

Poole was one of 16 House members to vote against the proposal, which now goes to the state Senate for approval. The remaining five members of Washington County's House delegation were among the 114 who voted in support.

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The state property tax rate is 21 cents per $100 of assessed value. It is added to the local property tax when property owners get their tax bill each year from the county.

Because the rate is tied to property value, the more expensive the property, the bigger the cut. For example, a property owner whose home had a market value of $100,000 would see an estimated cut of $20, but a property owner with a home worth $50,000 would get a $10 break.

"The economy is doing well and I really think we could give some money back, but we should be giving it back to the people who need it the most," Poole said.

Poole also warned that such a cut could leave the state ill-prepared for the day when the economy hits a downturn. For months, Poole has been speaking of the dangers of feel-good tax cuts that might come back to haunt the state.

"What is irritating me is we very well could repeat the mistakes of the late '80s," said Poole, referring to the boom years that preceded one of the worst fiscal crises in the state's history.

Even a county lawmaker who voted for the proposal, Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, said he did so "not with a lot of enthusiasm."

McKee pointed out that renters would get no immediate relief from the plan, even though their rent payments are often used to pay their landlords' property taxes.

"Some of that money was theirs to start with," he said.

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