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Delegates postpone hotel-motel tax vote

February 22, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County lawmakers postponed a vote Tuesday on doubling the hotel-motel tax to 6 percent so they can "build consensus" on the plan's details.

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The county legislative delegation may wait until next week to vote with the hope of getting face-to-face input from the Washington County Commissioners, said Delegation Chairman Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.

Lawmakers are proposing the tax increase to raise money for local tourism projects and to allow the county to put more money toward its $52.3 million water and sewer debt.

Hagerstown officials have said they want to use their share, estimated at $283,353, to build a new minor league baseball stadium.

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Some lawmakers, including McKee and Del. Christopher B. Shank, said they think the city has bigger tourism priorities than a new stadium. But they don't want to tell municipalities how to spend the extra cash.

Now, they said, they are tinkering with the plan's details.

"It's not a radical departure," said Shank, R-Washington.

Lawmakers say their main focus is to help curb the county's water and sewer debt.

They have proposed requiring county government to put an extra $400,000 a year toward debt reduction.

The county's costs would be offset by the tax increase, along with changes to the Washington County Gaming Commission funding formula.

Under the changes, approved last week by the delegation, the charities would get less of the tip jar gambling profits.

The Washington County Fire and Rescue Association would get about $250,000 more from tip jar contributions, allowing the county to reduce its contribution to the fire service by the same amount.

Although there would be no net effect to the association, the association opposes the changes. They are concerned the perception of an increase will reduce community donations.

Once the delegation votes on the tax increase, the legislative package will go to the Maryland General Assembly for approval.

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