The Prince George's County Council considered yesterday a grab bag of legislative proposals to send to the Maryland General Assembly, which opens its session next week, including a half-dozen different money-raising measures designed to meet an expected $30 million shortfall in the county budget.
The council, however, made no recommendation on the revenue proposals, which include raising the sales tax, increasing the amount of income tax counties can collect and a measure to tax telephone service, as some counties in Maryland already do. The money bills, along with about 24 other legislative proposals, were hurriedly drafted by County Executive Parris Glendening's legislative aide to meet the Assembly's Jan. 6 deadline for filing local bills.
In other action at yesterday's regular council meeting, the members also received two measures designed to strip the Washington Capitals hockey team of $1 million in tax relief awarded last year by the previous council. Council member Sue V. Mills, the sole member to vote against the tax break last year, introduced a bill yesterday that would reinstate the tax.
Anthony Cicoria, a newly elected council member from Hyattsville, also introduced a resolution that Caps owner Abe Pollin, who owns the Capital Centre arena in Largo, make available financial records of both the team and the center in order to aid the council's consideration of the tax break.
Glendening drafted a wide variety of revenue proposals, according to his aide, Royal Hart, including some that state legislators have criticized as politically impossible, in order to give him and the county delegation to Annapolis the flexibility to choose among them later. The County Council is expected to join with Glendening and the delegation in the future in selecting and backing one revenue bill.
Glendening has said repeatedly since his election last November that he needs help from Annapolis to close the gap in the county budget, which if unmet could result in some 600 employe layoffs.
Among the sales-tax bills the council considered yesterday were proposals to allow Prince George's the authority to impose its own 1 cent sales tax; to allow all jurisdictions in the state the same authority, and to allow the state to raise the sales tax and split the proceeds with the counties.
Other revenue bills included a measure to set different rates for real and personal property, which would largely affect utility companies.
The council also voted to support legislative measures to expand the powers of the county's housing authority and to study whether to grant additional powers to the Maryland National-Capital Park Police.
On other matters, Council Chairman Frank Casula introduced a bill that would restrict hot tub spas to certain commercial zones, allow their construction only after public hearings, and restrict their use to persons at least 18 years old or to young people accompanied by a parent. The legislation was drafted in response to the community outcry last fall over the establishment of a hot tub spa in College Park.
The council also unanimously confirmed the appointment of newly elected council member Richard Castaldi of Greenbelt to a seat on the Washington Suburban Transit Commission, where he will become the county's representative on the Metro board.
Glendening also announced appointment of Howard W. Stone Jr., 30, as acting director of the county's cable television commission, which will oversee construction and operation of the county cable TV system.