Md. GOP urging taxpayer 'refund'

February 01, 2001

Md. GOP urging taxpayer 'refund'

By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS - Riding the wave of conservatism ushered in by the Bush Administration, Maryland Republican lawmakers made their latest pitch for tax relief on Thursday.

Their latest proposal is designed to give taxpayers a refund when the state has a surplus.

The proposed constitutional amendment would need the votes of three-fifths of the Maryland General Assembly and it would be immune from veto. It would then go on the ballot statewide.

"That is our main selling point. We feel the voters are plenty intelligent to decide whether they want their money back," said Kenneth R. Timmerman of the Maryland Taxpayers Association, the grassroots organization backing the idea.

Over the last two years, the state's surplus has totaled $1.3 billion. If it were returned to taxpayers, it would have equaled $680 per household, the association argues.


Standing on the steps of the Maryland State House, Kimmerman and the bill's sponsors criticized Gov. Parris Glendening and the legislature for spending the surplus.

"I've seen my fellow legislators rush to spend it away. We're spending loose and fast down here," said Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, the lead sponsor in the Senate.

Del. James F. Ports, R-Baltimore County, called the governor's budget "bloated" and suggested the state will be forced to raise taxes if he continues spending the state's surpluses.

He noted that even Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan recognizes that tax cuts are a good way to spur the slowing economy.

Michael Morrill, the governor's spokesman, said the same legislators that complain about state spending ask him for money for their local projects.

Del. Martha Klima said she hasn't gone begging to the governor and doesn't think it's fair for him to use his control of the budget as a bargaining chip to get his legislative initiatives passed.

The governor believes it's in the best interests of the state to spend the surplus on one-time capital costs that don't burden future state budgets.

"The majority of Marylanders not only agree with that but they've been strongly supportive of that," he said.

Just because there is a surplus does not mean people are being overtaxed, Morrill said. A surplus results when a budget analyst underestimates tax revenues. Following that logic, if the same analyst overestimated tax revenues the state would have to send taxpayers a bill for the difference.

"That's absolutely silly," he said.

In the House of Delegates, the lead sponsor is Del. Janet Greenip, R-Anne Arundel. Local co-sponsors include Del. Robert A. McKee, Del. Christopher B. Shank, Del. Joseph R. Bartlett, R-Frederick/Washington, and Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington.

The bill may have an uphill battle, but Mooney said that was no reason not to move forward.

"I just think it's important to keep fiscal responsibility and tax reduction issues in the forefront," Mooney said.

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