Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) on Monday threw cold water on the efforts of fellow Democratic leaders in Annapolis, calling plans to raise taxes in a special session “simply the wrong approach at the wrong time.”
In an extraordinary letter, released to the press hours before lawmakers were set to convene, Franchot argues that a planned income tax increase could undermine the state’s “fragile” economy recovery.
“We cannot afford to jeopardize the long-term health of our economy for the sake of a questionable, short-term budget fix,” Franchot, the state’s chief tax collector, writes.
His letter is addressed to “fellow Marylanders,” and an aide said its recipients included state legislators.
Franchot, who is expected to run for governor in 2014, has emerged as an independent voice in Annapolis, frequently taking positions at odds with Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Democratic legislators leaders. Franchot’s critics say he has a penchant for attention-grabbing stunts.
Monday’s letter is likely to further reinforce his reputation as a maverick.
In a show of unity last week, O’Malley, House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) held a joint news conference to make the case for the special session. The event was also attended by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), another leading contender for the 2014 gubernatorial nomination.
Lawmakers are convening to pass a tax increase on residents making more than $100,000 to prevent school-funding cuts, layoffs of state workers and other austerity measures that would take effect July 1. Those measures are the result of last month’s collapse of a budget agreement in the final hours of the 90-day legislative session.
Franchot’s arguments echo those of legislative Republicans, who have tried to make the case that a special session is not necessary.
In his letter, Franchot says that lawmakers face “a patently false choice between destructive tax increases and thoughtless cuts to education, health care and law enforcement.”
He says that Marylanders should “demand that our leaders in Annapolis follow the lead of working families throughout this state by living within its means.”