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Washington Co. lawmakers to seek lower state corporate income tax

December 06, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com
  • Del. Andrew A. Serafini speaks during a meeting with the Washington County Board of Commissioners and county delegates Tuesday morning. Listening are Sen. Christopher B. Shank, left, and commissioners John Barr and Jeff Cline.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — State legislators from Washington County plan to try to lower Maryland’s corporate income tax during the upcoming Maryland General Assembly session, Washington County Delegation Chairman Del. Andrew A. Serafini said Tuesday.

Delegation members view broad tax reform as a more effective way to support economic development than the job-creation and distressed-area tax credits that a local lobbying coalition is pushing to expand, Serafini said.

The issue was the only point of disagreement during a Tuesday morning meeting between the Washington County Board of Commissioners and delegation members Serafini, Sen. Christopher B. Shank, and Del. Neil C. Parrott, all R-Washington, to discuss the county’s legislative requests.

The delegation members supported both of the two bills the county requested — one clarifying standards for distributing gaming proceeds to fire and rescue companies, and another clarifying that the town of Williamsport would not share in payments in lieu of taxes from power-generation facilities that aren’t in the town.

The delegation plans to complete a draft of the gaming-fund bill as soon as possible so it can be reviewed by the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association and by the county commissioners, Serafini said.

As discussed at a Nov. 10 meeting in Smithsburg, that bill will make a simple change giving the county the power to impose restrictions on the funding, legislators said.

“Since 96 to 97 percent of the association’s funds are gaming dollars, i.e. public dollars, the public has a right to have not only transparency as far as how the funds are being distributed, but also oversight, and that’s where the county commissioners come in,” Shank said.

In addition to requesting those two bills, the commissioners asked the delegation to support five other initiatives promoted by other groups. Those included requests by the Washington County Community Lobbying Coalition to expand a job-creation tax credit and a tax credit for development in a “qualified distressed county.” The coalition recommended lowering the number of newly created jobs required to qualify for the job-creation tax credit so small businesses could benefit and adding Washington County to the list of qualified distressed counties.

The lobbying coalition is made up of several local government and nonprofit entities.

“We’re not trying to fly in the face of the lobbying coalition,” Serafini said, stressing that job creation is important for putting people back to work and raising revenue to the state. However, he said, the delegation supports a different approach that involves repealing tax credits and deductions and, in their place, lowering the corporate tax rate across the board.

Shank said the corporate tax rate is part of the “sticker price” that site selection consultants compare.

“At least getting the corporate tax down to a competitive level regionally, I think, is imperative, and I personally would like to focus our efforts on that type of reform,” he said.

Parrott said business owners have told him job-creation tax credits do not work. One prominent businessman said his business qualified for the tax credit, but two years later still had not received it, Parrott said.

Another topic that generated some discussion was a request that the delegation support a legislative change that would allow police officers in unmarked cars to charge drivers with fleeing and eluding.

Shank said for him to support that change, the law would have to include protection for drivers who proceed to a safer area before stopping out of fear that the police officer is a fraud.

Washington County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Sam Billotti said the legislation being drafted includes that protection.

Other requests included allowing police agencies to remove from their systems old warrants that are unlikely ever to be served and a requirement that foreclosing lenders designate a person responsible for the physical condition of each property during the foreclosure.

The Maryland General Assembly session begins Jan. 11.

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