Md. House Speaker floats possible tax cut when General Assembly returns next year


Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) leads his chamber in the Pledge of Allegiance in 2011. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

The curtain closed just a week ago on this year’s session of the Maryland General Assembly, but House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) is already thinking about something he would like to do next year. And it might surprise you: cut taxes.

“I’m an optimist, and I believe the economy is going to improve,” Busch said in an interview on Monday. “If there’s an increase in revenues that results, hopefully we can return some of that to the taxpayers.”

Busch, who helped usher a major gas tax increase through his chamber this year, declined to discuss which taxes he might seek to reduce next year. He allowed only that the relief should be targeted to “working and middle-class families, who have borne the brunt of the recession.”

“It could take many forms,” Busch said.

Republicans told of Busch’s intention said it sounds like an election-year ploy. Lawmakers have passed a series of tax increases since Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) took office in 2007, including hikes in the sales tax and income tax on high earners. All 188 members of the Democrat-led General Assembly will be up for re-election next year.

“Give me a break,” said House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert). “It’s disingenuous to raise taxes for three years and act like you want to cut them when an election year rolls around.”

David Ferguson, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, offered another explanation, noting it was April 15: “This being tax day, maybe he was reminded of the outrageous amount of taxes he pays to the state,” Ferguson said.

After years of tight budgets, Busch said the state is poised for better fiscal years ahead. Besides an improving economy, he cited the planned opening of two major casinos in Maryland: one in Baltimore in 2014, and another in Prince George’s in 2016.

Those facilities are projected to generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year for state education programs. Three other casinos are already operating in Maryland, and a fourth, in the western part of the state, is planned to begin operations this year.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.

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