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House passes legislation on excise tax revision

March 30, 2005|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - The Maryland House of Delegates on Tuesday approved legislation that allows Washington County to revise its building excise tax on new development.

Only eight votes were cast against the bill.

A companion bill is pending in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

The Washington County Growth Management Act of 2005 grants enabling authority to the County Commissioners to convert the excise tax from its current square-footage calculation for residential development to a flat fee of up to $13,000 per housing unit. In developments with 25 or more units, the cap would double to $26,000.

The excise tax on commercial development still will be calculated on the basis of the size of new development, with a cap of $5 per square foot.

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The money from the excise tax is to pay for new roads, schools and other infrastructure needs resulting from growth. Municipalities within the county that adopt Adequate Public Facility Ordinances would be permitted to keep part of the money collected from the tax for growth-related capital projects within their jurisdictions.

If approved by the Senate, the revised tax will become effective July 1.

In passing the bill to the full House, the House Ways and Means Committee ignored a last-minute effort to amend the bill to exempt developments that already have been given preliminary approvals, according to Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington. McKee, who serves on the Ways and Means Committee, said a legislative analyst had a copy of the proposed amendment and asked McKee whether it was something the Washington County Delegation would support.

"I told him that 'that is not an amendment from the delegation and we don't want it,'" McKee said.

That amendment, sought by Zenith Construction Company of Hagerstown, was being pressed in the Senate last week by Annapolis lobbyist Gerard Evans, who said he represents Zenith. Zenith Construction Inc. was incorporated in April 2002 with David J. Shaool of Hagerstown listed as its resident agent, according to papers obtained by The Herald-Mail.

Evans said Friday he had approached Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, about sponsoring the amendment in the Senate, and that he had another sponsor on Munson's committee in mind if Munson declined.

Munson said he would not accept the amendment, because it would effectively exclude all planned development in the county from the revised tax.

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