A proposal to increase county income taxes - but use half of the new revenue to offset increases in property taxes - is one of nearly 100 bills submitted by various groups to the Montgomery County legislative delegation by last Friday's deadline.
The income tax measure and six other tax-related proposals pushed by the Montgomery County Council are likely to be among the most controversial local measures submitted to the delegation for action in next year's General Assembly. Other bills sent to the delegation range from housekeeping legislation to a bill to give the county more money to meet Metro capital costs.
Council member Neil Potter characterized the income tax as a double effort to relieve property taxes and to give the county more revenue for police education of handicapped students, corrections and Metro.
The bill would permit counties across the state to impose income taxes up to 75 per cent of the state income tax, instead of the current 50 per cent. But it would also exempt the first $3,200 in adjusted income from the county tax.
Because of the exemption, and because half of the expected $24 million in revenues from a county income tax increase would go toward property tax reduction, Potter said the effect would be an overall tax decrease for about a third of the families in Montgomery County.
A family of four with an income less than $18,000 to $20,000 would receive a tax break of up to $50, he said, while families with greater incomes would have tax increases ranging from $20 to several hundred dollars.
The council is pushing tow versions of the income tax bill, one which would apply statewide and one that would apply only in Montgomery County. Potter said he thought the statewide bill had good prospects, with support from other suburban counties whose residents are feeling the presure of large property tax increases.
Other council-sponsored tax bills would extend the "circuuit breaker" property tax exemption, now limited to elderly and handicapped persons, to all needy, low income families; allow some homeownders to defer paying part of their property taxes, so long as they paid the bills back with interest; and restrict the amount of land in Montgomery County that can receive low agricultural land use assessment.
County Executive James Gleason is sponsoring more than a dozen bills involving the county administration. A series of bills would increase his control over the Board of Education and its budget, including one bill which would abolish the school board and put the school superintendent directly under the executive.
One of Gleason's major bills would increase the state subsidy for capital costs of Metrorail by $56 million required because of cost overruns. Edward Sealover, director of the county office of state affairs, said that without the state subdidy the county would be forced to raise local taxes to meet the required Metro subsidy. A similar bill covering subsidies of Metro operating costs will also be submitted, Sealover said.
Another of Gleason's proposals would repeal the bill passed last year giving the county Housing Opportunities Commission the authority to sell county general obligation bonds. Sealover said Gleason thought the housing authority would hurt the county's AAA bond rating and that "housing financing is not an area for pledging the full faith and credit of the county."
Finally, one of Gleason's proposals would eliminate the Maryland National Park and Planning Commission's role in maintaining and operating parks in Montgomery County. The bill would have all local parks turned over to the county.
A bi-county bill by Del. Andrew Mothershead (D-Prince George's) would prohibit the WSSC from selling water outside of the bi-county district. One WSSC bill would require agency to supply water without cost to any charitable institution for up to 100 gallons a day, while another would remove the requirement that it supply water without cost to certain fire departments or rescue squads.
A bill pushed by the Suburban Maryland Home Builders Association would eliminate the requirement that water and sewer connection charges be based on the average cost for connections. Two WSSC-sponsored proposals would permit the agency to average benefit charges within a subdivision and make upaid water and sewer use charges a lien against the property.
Other bi-county bills proposed to the delegation include commissioners of the WSSC, the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the Washington Suburban Transit office during their terms on the bi-county boards.
Other local bills proposed would:
Permit collective bargaining by employees of the county, the WSSC, the Maryland National Capital Park and Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission Montgomery Community College, and substitute school teachers for the Board of Education. Bills on this subject were submitted by the county council, and teachers and county employees groups.
Abolish the elective offices of clerk of court, sheriff and register of wills, and have the county council members and Democratic Central Committee members elected from districts, in bills submitted by Del. Charles Doctor (D-Kensington), as a means of shortening the ballot.
Require a runoff election in a primary for county executive or member of Congress when no candidate wins more than 40 per cent of the votes cast, in a bill by Del. Ida Ruben (D-Silver Spring).
Exempt land held by nonprofit community civic associations or corporations from tax assessment, in a bill by Del. Jerry Hyatt (D-Damascus). Also, grant a 25 per cent tax credit for residential buildings more than 80 years old, in a bill by Del. Shelia Hixon (D-Silver Spring) that would apply statewide.
Repeal the state conflict of interest law passed last year that prohibits county officers or employees from dealing with county or board of education contracts or purchases in which they have a financial interest, in a bill submitted by the county council.
Liberalize gaming laws so that grocery stores and service stations would be allowed to offer sweepstakes and games, in bills subitted by a Baltimore law firm and a Silver Spring resident.
Prohibit landlords from using liquidated damages or penalty clauses in leases which in effect force tenants to pay a set amount if they break a lease regarless of how little landlords are hurt, in a bill submitted by the Montgomery County Tenants Association.
Permit an independent to be added to the Board of Supervisors of Elections whenever registration of independents in the county reaches or exceeds 15 per cent, in a bill by Toth.
All of the proposal for the county's 19 state delegates will be considered later this year, and the delegation or its committees will hold hearings on all bills not already considered in prior years. No local bills will be filed in the General Assembly without majority approval from both the delegates and the county's seven state senators.