Md. House Republicans to push income tax cut, withdrawal from Common Core initiative

In the upcoming legislative session, Maryland House Republicans plan to push a 10 percent income tax cut, repeal of the so-called “rain tax” and the state’s withdrawal from the Common Core education initiative.

Those and other priorities were previewed Saturday during a speech by House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County) at the annual fall convention of the Maryland Republican Party in Annapolis.

Most of the proposals face long odds when lawmakers return in January, given the party’s minority status in both the House and Senate. But the initiatives are certain to get some attention, both during the 90-day session and in the elections that follow next year.

Szeliga said House Republicans would borrow a page from the playbook of the Republican’s 1994 and 1998 gubernatorial nominee Ellen R. Sauerbrey in advocating for a personal income tax cut. Sauerbrey nearly won in 1994 on the strength of her proposal.

“We’re going to do that again,” Szeliga said, adding that House Republicans will ask Marylanders: “Who’s going to do a better job of spending your money? You or the government?”

Szeliga also said Republicans will sponsor legislation to repeal a 2012 law under which nine of Maryland’s jurisdictions are required to fund programs to reduce pollution from stormwater runoff. Critics derisively refer to the fee that counties have been told to impose as the “rain tax.”

“It makes us the laughing stock of the nation,” Szeliga said of the levy.

Republicans, Szeliga said, will also attempt to end Maryland’s participation in the Common Core State Standards initiative. Maryland is one of 45 states, along with the District of Columbia, that have adopted the standards, an initiative designed to establish a single set of educational benchmarks for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and math.

Critics, including Harford County Executive David R. Craig, a Republican gubernatorial hopeful, have said the initiative is too costly and gives too much control over Maryland classrooms to national testing organizations.

Under the House GOP plan, if the state does not withdraw from Common Core as a whole, individual counties would be given the option to do so.

A handout distributed by Szeliga said the party would also push to create vouchers that could be used by students in failing schools to enroll elsewhere.

The party also plans to seek broader rights for gun users and to either reduce or abolish Maryland’s estate tax.

Szeliga indicated another priority will be expanding “transparency and accountability” in government. House Republicans want to install cameras in both the House and Senate chambers so citizens can watch floor sessions.

Under current practice, citizens can watch House committee meetings on the Web and listen to Senate committee meetings.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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