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Frederick County hotel tax killed

March 29, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - A Senate committee has effectively killed Frederick County's hotel tax plan, calling into question whether it will pass a proposed hotel tax hike for Washington County.

The Senate won't approve Frederick County's tax without the support of the county's two senators, Budget and Taxation Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman told supporters of the tax at a hearing Wednesday.

Both Sen. Timothy Ferguson, R-Frederick/Carroll, and Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, wrote letters of opposition to the committee.

Mooney is also opposed to Washington County's plan to double its hotel tax to 6 percent.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, supports the tax hike.

Munson said he hopes that their split won't become an issue at Washington County's hotel tax hearing, set for Monday.

Other Washington County lawmakers observed that Munson's opinion may carry more weight with the committee because Munson is a fellow member, he's the resident county senator and he's been in the senate longer than Mooney.

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"They're going to hear it with an open mind," said Mooney, who added that he would write a letter of opposition if asked by the committee.

The Washington County delegation's water and sewer debt reduction plan, as well as funding for a proposed minor league baseball stadium, are riding on the hotel tax increase.

The committee heard testimony for more than an hour from proponents and opponents of Frederick County's tax.

A majority of the Frederick County Commissioners and the Frederick County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly voted in favor of the authority to charge a 5 percent room tax to raise money for tourism marketing, they said.

About 95 percent of the hotel rooms in Maryland are already taxed, Frederick County Commissioner Ilona Hogan testified.

Some senators on the committee wondered why they were even hearing the issue without the support of the senators.

"It's a waste of time," said Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, D-Baltimore City.

"You've put us in the middle of a family squabble. You've put us in a very uncomfortable position," said Hoffman, D-Baltimore.

Frederick County Delegation Chairwoman Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington, apologized to the committee.

Later, she said the delegation had been hoping that Ferguson would change his mind on the issue.

In past years, the delegation's senators have supported the will of the majority, she said.

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