Advertisement

Should taxes or slots pay for school costs?

April 16, 2002|BY BOB MAGINNIS

The highlight of the Maryland General Assembly session just passed was the deal to jump-start the additional school-funding effort proposed by the Thornton Commission. For now, the bill will be paid by a 34-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase, but candidates seeking state offices must offer a plan for future funding.

Under the plan, schools statewide will get $232 million next year, far more than the $160 million proposed by Gov. Parris Glendening. That will include an extra $80 million for Montgomery County, the price of winning that delegation's votes.

What happens in two years when the cigarette tax increase will no longer yield enough revenue? In a compromise meant to placate fiscal conservatives, House Speaker Cas Taylor crafted a measure that halt the funding unless the legislature passes a resolution saying that there's sufficient cash.

After two years of increased education funding, will the legislature really cut it off? We doubt it. According to state Sen. Barbara Hoffman, D-Baltimore, the bill was passed in part because of threats from some counties to sue over what they saw as inadequate state funding. Once they've received it, they certainly won't hesitate to sue to keep it.

Advertisement

That means the state will either have to defend a politically unpopular lawsuit or find another funding source. There are really only two possibilities: Raise taxes or legalize slot-machine gambling at the state's horse tracks.

Gambling will be the more attractive option because unlike paying taxes, no one is forced to play slot machines. But how it's done is crucial, because it will certainly cause some to become gambling addicts, as well as reducing revenues from other sources like the state lottery, or tip jars here in Washington County.

The one thing we don't want to hear is that more study is needed. Other states have plenty of experience Maryland can draw on. The cash has been committed and the candidates need to tell us which way they favor to pay the bills.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|