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January 13, 2011

The state's eye view of county taxes, spending

The refrain leading up to the start of the Maryland General Assembly's 428th session yesterday was consistent: "We're all in this together."

But, as The Sun reported this morning, a new dynamic quickly emerged. Gov. Martin O'Malley says it'll be up to lawmakers to pursue tax increases as a partial solution to the $1.6 billion deficit. And now some leading legislators say they will look to taxes only if county officials push for them.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller also have started making the case that perhaps Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore City could be taxing more locally or further snipping their budgets. They point to an appendix in a November fiscal briefing (page 41) as evidence. Here's what it says:   

* Five counties — Cecil, Harford, Montgomery, Queen Anne’s and Somerset — reduced property tax this year, though only slightly. Anne Arundel and Kent counties raised their rates. (Last year, Miller said, seven counties reduced property tax.)

* Baltimore City raised its local income tax this year as much as it possibly could under state law, to 3.2 percent. Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s also charge the maximum rate. Many counties bill far less. For example, Worcester taxes at just 1.25 percent, the lowest in the state.

* On the expense side, the same report shows that several counties and Baltimore had given raises to county employees. Still more gave raises to teachers (those salaries are set by local school boards).

* Workers in nine counties this year have been forced to take unpaid days off of work, and six of those same counties have also laid off employees.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 9:50 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: 2011 legislative session
        

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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