Annapolis briefs

February 09, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

Delegates seek break from flush tax

ANNAPOLIS - Two bills to exempt septic systems from taxation for the Bay Restoration Program were presented Wednesday to the House Environmental Matters Committee.

One, sponsored by Del. David Rudolph, D-Cecil/Harford, and co-sponsored by Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, would allow counties the option of exempting septic users from the so-called "flush tax."

The other, sponsored by House Minority Leader George Edwards, R-Garrett/Allegany, would exempt all septic systems from the tax. Washington County Republicans Robert A. McKee, LeRoy E. Myers and Christopher B. Shank are co-sponsors.

Edwards pointed out that septic systems were not included in the original bay restoration bill, but were amended into the bill before the final vote. Septic systems in outlying areas of the state, such as Western Maryland, were not contributing to the problem, he said, and implementing the tax on septic systems was impractical.


"We're not sure everybody's getting billed," he said, because individual counties aren't sure where all of the septic systems are.

"Most septics in my part of the state flow into the Gulf of Mexico," he added.

HB 235, HB 276

College funding gets warm reception

ANNAPOLIS - No bill is a sure thing until both houses approve and the governor signs, but a bill to revise the formula for community college funding is off to a good start.

All 47 senators have signed on as co-sponsors.

The bill would phase in higher funding levels for community colleges beginning in fiscal year 2008 and lasting through fiscal year 2012. The Department of Legislative Services estimates the new funding formula would send an additional $7.5 million to the state's 16 community colleges in the first year, and $46.6 million in its final year.

Lead sponsor Sen. Patrick Hogan, D-Montgomery, presented the bill Wednesday in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, serves on the committee.

The current formula gives community colleges funding at 25 percent of the level provided to state four-year institutions. The bill would increase that level by 1 percent per year through fiscal 2012.

Several community college presidents testified in support of the bill, as did H. Clay Whitlow, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges.

State funding for community colleges as a share of the state budget has decreased, Whitlow told the committee.

At the same time, the state's commitment to the Thornton formula for funding K-12 education was resulting in more high school graduates who would seek higher education.

"It's time to take another look at the formula," he said.

A second bill would protect grants to small community colleges. These grants are available to schools whose enrollment is less than 80 percent of the statewide median full-time enrollment.

Hagerstown Community College is one of three colleges that are on the brink of losing these grants, which average about $470,000. Rapid increases in enrollment are threatening to make the schools ineligible. This bill would phase out the grants rather than completely eliminate them when enrollment makes them ineligible, Hogan said. The grants would be phased out at 20 percent per year.

HCC officials lobbied Munson and the rest of the Washington County Delegation to the General Assembly for both the level of state funding and the small school grants before this year's legislative session began.

SB 356, 357

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