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Hard to call this one 'special'

December 15, 2007|By LeRoy Myers Jr., Delegate, District 1C

Now that the "unspecial" session is over, I wanted to update you on the recent special session of the Maryland General Assembly and the numerous pieces of legislation that were presented. I received countless phone calls, e-mails and letters from constituents regarding the issues. I really appreciate when the citizens of our great state share their thoughts and concerns with me. I, too, had and continue to have many concerns with the administration's attempts to pass a tax package that will have such a large and negative impact to the citizens of Maryland.

Unfortunately, due to the "urgency" and short-fused nature that the executive branch placed on this special session, public participation and outcry in Annapolis were at a minimum.

Much of the legislation that was introduced by the Democratic party, including the sales tax increase and the slots referendum, was met with a great deal of opposition from myself and other members of the Republican party (as well as several outcast members of the Democratic party).

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Unfortunately, however, the majority and the administration ultimately prevailed and I would like to take this opportunity to summarize the high points and the effects that this session will have on our state and why they are of importance to you.

The final tax package that was passed will increase your sales tax by 20 percent. Taxes will also be applied to computer services. The vehicle titling tax increased by 20 percent, corporate taxes more than 18 percent and taxes on cigarettes have now doubled. This broad, sweeping legislation will significantly increase the income tax structure and amounts to increased taxes to the tune of $1,222 for every man, woman and child in Maryland ? or approximately $5,000 for the average family of four. It is obvious that the current administration and the Democratic party feel that the government can spend our money better then we can.

House Bill 4 - Video Lottery Terminals Authorization and Limitation is a constitutional amendment that requires there to be a referendum on slot machine gambling in the 2008 general election. The accompanying Senate Bill (SB3) was passed and establishes the operational and regulatory framework for the VLT program. I remain opposed to the implementation of slot machines and would like to stress to those who oppose slots to vote "no" at the polls in November 2008. In the meantime, I will continue to work to eliminate slots once and for all in the state of Maryland.

House Bill 14 - State Lottery Agency Tip Jar Games Exclusive Authority, which would give the State Lottery Agency control of tip-jar gaming, was introduced by Del. Shane Pendergrass, D-Howard County. This bill was not discussed with Western Maryland lawmakers before it was introduced. Tip-jar gaming has produced millions of dollars for education, fire and rescue and other services in Western Maryland. This bill died in committee and never made it to the floor for vote. This illustrates how outsiders have tried to grab the county's tip-jar revenues.

House Bill 23 - Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund-Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays-Maryland Green Fund passed through the House by a vote of 103 for and 30 against. I voted against this legislation simply because we have no way to pay for it at this time.

It appeared as though it stalled in the Senate, but was later resurrected to be included in House Bill 5 - Transportation and State Investment Act, by an amendment introduced on the bill. This legislation will be funded with a portion of existing revenues from the motor fuel tax and existing revenues from the sales and use tax on short-term vehicle rentals.

House Bill 50 - State Retirement and Pension System - Employer Contributions - Educators and Educational Staff was heard in the Appropriations Committee on Nov. 1, 2007. HB 50 would have required the county governments to pay half of the employer pension contributions for all teachers, librarians and other public school or library staff who are members of either the Teachers' Retirement System or Teachers' Pension System. This bill also failed in committee and was subsequently not considered by the entire body.

I feel that other bills that were introduced and not passed during this special session, such as gas tax, taxable services and alcoholic beverage tax will be seen again during the regular session.

I appreciate the opportunity to share with you some key results of this historical special session. I wanted to ensure that the citizens of my district were all aware that I was listening and heard your messages loud and clear. I will continue to represent each of you and be the voice for your concerns.

Once again, I did not support the governor's decision to call the special session. I could not and will not support the positions and measures as set before me by the administration and the Democratic Party because of both my personal views and most importantly the views of the of constituents of District 1C.

I hope that one day we will able to recover from the economic burden that has been placed on each of us by our governor and the majority party.

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