The U.S. Supreme Court refused yesterday to review an appellate decision denying the State of Maryland the right to collect income taxes from members of Congress living in the state more than six months each year.
The high court's refusal to grant a writ of certiorari leaves standing a ruling in January by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond. ythe earlier decision upheld the right of Congress to exempt it members -- excluding the state's own congressional delegation -- from Maryland income taxes.
Congress passed such a law in 1976, but it was vetoed by President Gerald Ford. No attempt was made to override the veto. After Ford's election defeat, Congress passed a similar measure, and then President Jimmy Carter signed it into law in 1977.
At that time, an estimated 125 congressmen and senators made their homes in Maryland when Congress was in session, including 25 whose home states levied no income tax. For a period of time after the exemption law went into effect, 28 members voluntarily paid income tax to Maryland, with those paying income taxes in their home states, too, receiving a credit.
Efforts by State Comptroller Louis Goldstein to collect the tax from the rest led several congressmen to ask the Justice Department to file suit against Maryland, which contended $225,000 a year was at stake. The suit was filed in July 1978.
U.S. District Court Judge Frank A. Kaufman decided in March, 1980 to uphold the action of Congress "to aid itself in the performance of its duties. uIn appealing to the 4th Circuit, Maryland lawyers argued that exempting congressmen from such taxes would set a bad precedent. Virginia and the District of Columbia, however, provide for such an exemption.
Yesterday's Supreme Court action "maintains the status quo," said Marvin Bond, assistant to state comptroller Louis Goldstein. "Everything has been in kind of a holding pattern for three years."
"To be very blunt," said Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, "this has always been a close constitutional issue. I can't say the court is wrong."