Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening made a spirited plea today to legislators to salvage two tax proposals that he views as vital to offset a $30 million budget shortfall.
Glendening told the House Ways and Means Committee that "your constituents will not be affected by the proposed tax increases. They will cost the state nothing, they will cost your constitutents nothing and they will expose you to no adverse political reaction."
Glendening was responding to concerns voiced by legislative leaders that although initially the new taxes would apply only to Prince George's residents, they eventually would be allowed statewide. To be implemented, they must be approved by the legislature.
"The elected officials of Prince George's County accept the responsibility for adequately funding essential services," Glendening said. "Your constituents will not be affected by the proposed tax increases."
Glendening and other advocates of new taxing authority for the county showed up in force at a hearing, arguing that without the extra revenue, the county will have to make drastic cuts in essential services.
"Prince George's County is facing a severe financial crisis. A combination of TRIM a charter-imposed limit on property tax revenue , lost federal aid, inflation and the impact of recession have placed us in a very difficult position," said Glendening, leading a list of speakers that included the chairman of the county's legislative delegation, council chairman and vice chairman, school board chairwoman, and representatives of the unions representing police, fire, education and other county workers.
One of the bills, which would raise an estimated $10 million a year, would allow the county to increase personal property taxes on business equipment and machinery, which largely affects utility companies. The other bill would permit the county to increase its surcharge on the state income tax from 50 percent to 60 percent of the state's take. This so-called "piggy-back tax" increase would raise an estimated $22.8 million.
Though the Prince George's delegation recently voted to support both measures, the income tax bill has faced opposition from some state senators as well as leaders of the House. Glendening met with House Speaker Benjamin Cardin on Tuesday along with delegation chairman Charles (Buzz) Ryan, where Cardin said, according to Glendening, "that he was not opposed to the bill and would not harm us." Nevertheless, said Glendening, "he also explicitly said he was not supporting us either and would look more closely at it."
Opponents of the bill also went before the committee today, including lobbyists for the county's Chamber of Commerce and the utility companies, who argued that their customers would be subsidizing services for the rest of county residents.
The committee could vote on the proposals as soon as Friday.