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dm 16dec00 - transfer tax

December 19, 2000

Those who oppose a tax must back an alternative



If you say no to one thing, you have to say yes to something else.

It's a simple rule, really, and anyone who's raised a small child has used it, whether or not they've used those exact words. If you don't want carrots, then what other vegetable will you eat? If you don't want to wear your red shirt, then how about the green one? You get the idea.

The rule came to mind last week as we read about the public hearing held by Washington County's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly. State lawmakers heard, among other things, the county commissioners' proposal for a local real-estate transfer tax.

The tax would add a 1 percent tax to the purchase of a home or business property, and would be in addition to the half-percent tax already levied by the state. The commissioners want to use the estimated $1.2 million the tax would raise annually for school renovations and farmland preservation.

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Both of those programs involve a local-state matching fund arrangement, and for a number of years, the county has had to leave state construction money on the table, despite a long list of repairs and upgrades needed for aging school buildings.

Opposition to the tax comes from the Pen-Mar Regional Association of Realtors, which says it makes no sense to increase closing costs at the same time the state is trying to lower them.

Del. Joe Bartlett, R-Washington/Frederick, agreed, in part because he opposes almost all tax increases. But it seems to us Bartlett has an obligation the real estate people don't have - to help find a solution to funding these programs, unless he wants to argue that preserving farmland and keeping schools maintained are not good things to do.

Until he and all the other opponents of this tax are going to make that argument, then they've got to find a funding mechanism. Maybe it will be tax or maybe it will be cutting the budget elsewhere. Either way, what it comes down to is: If you say no to one thing, then you've got to say yes to something else.

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