With opinion polls showing voters poised to approve property tax limitation measures in three Maryland counties, opponents of the ballot questions have launched a last-minute broadcasting blitz.
A coalition of groups from Baltimore, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties spearheaded by the Maryland State Teachers Association plans to spend at least $225,000 on an "extensive" number of television and radio commercials, said Kathleen Lyons, of the teachers association.
"We are trying to get the word out that the big losers on Election Day will be the people who live in these counties," Lyons said. "Our message to them is that this quality of life you cherish is going to be thrown out the window with the passage of these revenue caps."
Last week, the coalition, Citizens for Responsible Government, began airing a series of 30- and 60-second spots on 15 radio stations in the Baltimore and Washington areas.
One ad, narrated by a "deep . . . scary" male voice, depicts an elderly person striken by a heart attack who dials 911 and gets a busy signal. "If this scares you like it scares us," a female voice says, "you'll vote against the tax cap."
According to Lyons, most of the funding for the media campaign has come from the teachers association.
When likely voters were asked whether they would approve the measures if they caused a reduction in services, the number favoring the limits dropped dramatically, Lyons said.
But Robert Schaeffer, president of the group that got a tax ceiling onto Anne Arundel's ballot, said he is not concerned about the opposition's ads, even though his organization is spending only about $1,800 on cable television.
"They are saying if you vote to limit the rate of growth in your property taxes, then you are putting your life in danger," Schaeffer said. He called the tactic "morally reprehensible."