Just as tensions between Prince George's County Executive Lawrence Hogan and the all-Democratic council began to flag in the summer heat, a small slip of paper mailed last week at county expense to every property owner revived partisan squabbles in Upper Marlboro.
The paper was the county's 1981 tax bill, which included an in-depth property owner was required to pay in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
On the flip side of the bill was a special message by Republican Hogan that, while explaining the budget further, also took a shot at the council for appriving an increased tax rate for water, sewer and park services. Those taxes, along with the county property tax, make up the full county tax rate.
"The County Council raised the tax rates [for those services] over my objections," Hogan wrote.
What angered several council members who heard about the Hogan message while attending a convention at county expense in Las Vegas, was Hogan's failure to give them credit at the same time for cutting the property tax further than Hogan had proposed.
Said council member Gerard T. McDonough: "It was typical Hogan. He'll take credit for everything the county does that's good and try and place the blame on the council for things that are bad. He's doing what he always criticizes us for. Playing partisan politics at county taxpayer expense."
County tax bills have traditionally been used by county executives to communicate directly with Prince George's taxpayers and voters. Past executives have regulaly been criticized for using them for political purposes.
Hogan made such a criticism himself in his successful 1978 election challenge of Democratic incumbent Winfield M. Kelly Jr., who he said was misusing taxpaper money to send out glossy pamphlets with county tax bills. w
Now, finding himself in a somewhat similar position to Kelly, Hogan minimized the furor over his tax bill message and said the whole thing was "no big deal. I was filling up the back of the tax bill. That's all."
Hogan said he pointed out his objection to the council's decision to raise water, sewer and park rates so that county residents would "know I vigorously oppose it. Why should I get the rap for it?"
Hogan said he did not think it was necessary to point out in his message that the County Council had voted to cut property taxes more than he had proposed. He also said that as a result of his tax bill message, "Dozens of people have been calling to tell me how happy they are with the tax cut and how wonderful I am."