Opponents of Question A are trying to terrorize voters by arguing that such vital government services as public safety, transportation, libraries and education will be impaired if Question A passes. Voters should consider the following:
The county charter's present property tax revenue limit is the County Council's own, having been placed on the ballot in 1990 by the council and easily approved by the voters. The council was able to abide by its limit for 11 years without a peep about adversely affecting government services.
The piggyback income tax rate was 50 percent in 1990. It is now 60 percent, so there should be less pressure to override the council's property tax revenue limit.
The Montgomery County government may have the fastest growing county budget in the United States compared to population growth. From fiscal year 1998 to fiscal year '04, the county budget grew 50 percent, from $2 billion to $3 billion while the population increased only 8.5 percent. Why should the budget, with record low inflation, increase six times as fast as the population?
To satisfy its urge to build such nonessential projects as the $100 million Strathmore Center with its $10 million operating cost, the County Council is now looking at increased property assessments as an excuse to wallop us with huge property tax increases.
Increased property taxes on paper assessment gains are forcing seniors and others on fixed incomes out of Montgomery County. Increased property taxes serve as a barrier to home ownership for young people. Increased property taxes force immigrants in single-family zones to double or triple up.
Apartment dwellers pay property tax increases, too, because landlords pass on their increases in the form of increased rents.
The county executive refuses to debate Question A, although he has increased our taxes and is speaking to voters in other counties while we pay his salary.
Question A is the last chance for voters to keep the council's charter property tax revenue limit. Its six-year financial plan reveals that it plans never to stick to its limit again, violating it by ever-increasing margins. It can govern only when revenues are rapidly increasing.
Question A was petitioned to the ballot by 15,000 Democrats, Republicans and Independents, a majority of whom were Democrats. Yet the county Democratic Party refused to let the circulators of Question A testify at its "public hearing" on Question A.
Those concerned about increased property taxes should ignore the League of Women Voters guide. A prosecutor can't write a defendant's brief in court, so how can the league, which has taken a position, write both "pros" and "cons."
Ficker, a lawyer, served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1979 to 1982 and is chairman of Hightaxzone.org.