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Big tax cuts not in governor's package for the 2000 session

January 12, 2000

Nobody wants tax cuts.

So says Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, who said Monday the people he's talked to want the state's $1 billion surplus spent on education. And that, along with health and transportation issues, will be his focus this year. We don't disagree with the broad outline of what the governor has in mind, but believe that if taxes can't be cut in this era of plenty, they never will be.

In fact, the governor has said he'll go along with legislators' plan to eliminate the state's inheritance tax, which yields $50 million a year. He also says he may be persuaded to accept a speed-up in the phase-in of a 10 percent income tax cut, now slated to take full effect in 2002.

School construction would get $165 million of the surplus, while another $200 million would go for the state's share of rebuilding the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River. But it would the state's $1 billion first payment on the tobacco suit settlement that he would propose to use to fund anti-smoking and cancer-research efforts.

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That would still leave a substantial amount of the surplus uncommitted, and we'd like to see some of it diverted to the state's prepaid tution plan, which hasn't signed up nearly as many participants as state officials had hoped. If a dose of capital now would make this fund more attractive, it would yield a whole new crop of educated Marylanders in the future.

We'd also like to see some of the surplus committed to retirement of some bonded debt, and some put aside to cushion the state against an economic downtown.

Maryland has been riding a wave of national prosperity, but the national economy runs in cycles and in the past the booms have always been followed by downturns. If major tax relief isn'[t possible now, at least let the state put aside enough money to prevent a big tax hike in the future when the next decline arrives.

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