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Tax hikes are not the only answer

June 30, 2007

To the editor:

As a strong opponent of unnecessary tax hikes, I have proposed slowing spending increases and sharing fairly with the counties the employer share of funding the teachers' pensions as a way to fix Maryland's $1.5 billion budget deficit. In fact, exercising these and other options points out that the budget deficit can be fixed with or without legalizing slots and gaining the estimated $600 million slots will generate.

However, the Annapolis tax-and-spend crowd is locked into the age-old behavior of government, which overspends its way into a budget deficit and then screams for a tax increase to dig its way out.

Raising taxes is the knee-jerk reaction of the Annapolis tax-and-spend crowd to overspending. It never occurs to them to reassess spending as a way to produce a balanced budget.

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No matter how many times it is proven that throwing money at problems does not solve the problem, the Annapolis tax-and-spend crowd refuses to believe it.

Despite the Thornton plan, No Child Left Behind and other additional education funding dished out to troubled school systems, Baltimore City schools continue to sink, as the city's graduation rate continues to remain among the nation's lowest.

The Annapolis tax-and-spend crowd reasons that because Maryland is one of the top three wealthiest states, Marylanders should bear one of the highest tax burdens in the nation. I don't agree and neither do the taxpayers.

Cigarette tax (SB 754), gasoline tax (SB 949) and sales tax hikes (HB 393) were all considered during the 2007 General Assembly session and will no doubt be trotted out for reconsideration in 2008.

The increases will be lobbied, touted and justified by the Annapolis tax-and-spend crowd. But what they won't tell you is that a $1 cigarette tax increase will bring the state cigarette tax to $2, the fourth highest in the nation.

Adding 12 cents to the state gas tax will bring it to 35.5 cents, and make Maryland's gas tax the highest in the nation. And last, but certainly not least, boosting the state sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent will make Maryland's sales tax the 10th highest in the nation.

These tax boosts will push Maryland well above the nationwide median of 80 cents for states' cigarette taxes, 19.19 cents for states' gas taxes and 5.5 percent for the states' sales taxes.

I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the biggest fibs consistently used by the Annapolis tax-and-spend crowd is to promise a specific benefit for a new or increased tax.

No one seems to remember that, time and time again, history has proven it is virtually impossible in Maryland to guarantee that a specific tax will be used only for a specific purpose.

Remember the Transportation Trust Fund? Revenues in the fund come from drivers' license and registration fees (most recently increased in 2003) and gas taxes and are supposed to be used to fund transportation projects and their operation.

However, I don't think there has been a governor in recent memory who has not dipped into the Transportation Trust Fund to help balance the budget. Consequently, the Annapolis tax-and-spend crowd says the Transportation Trust Fund is anemic and can't support badly needed transportation projects or their operation.

So let the games begin. The Annapolis tax-and-spend crowd has begun to rev up the spin big time. Don't be fooled. Tax increases are not necessary to fix the $1.5 billion budget deficit. Fool us once, shame on them. Fool us twice, shame on us. Don't buy the spin. It's not fact. It's not truth. It's just the same old song and dance. It's just spin.

E. J. Pipkin

State Senator

District 36

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