Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Thursday urged military veterans to help him lobby for legislation that would phase out the income taxes they pay on their retirement income from the armed forces.
“Help us help you,” the new governor told a receptive audience at American Legion Post 136 in Greenbelt, adding that his bill was meant “as a token of our appreciation and respect” for their service.
Hogan spent close to an hour at the post, touring its restaurant and bars, posing for pictures and trading laughs with veterans whose service dated back to World War II.
Hogan’s bill, which aims to completely eliminate taxation of veterans’ military pension income after four years, received a chilly reception from Democrats who control the General Assembly when Hogan previewed it last week in his State of the State address.
While applauding the sentiment, legislative leaders questioned whether the measure is affordable at a time when the state faces a $700 million budget shortfall in the coming year. Hogan has proposed slowing the growth of K-12 education spending as one remedy, which Democrats are resisting.
Similar military retiree legislation introduced by a lawmaker last year would have cost the state more than $30 million a year once fully phased in, according to legislative analysts.
Hogan has proposed a separate bill this year known as the Hometown Heroes Act that would also shield the retirement income of law enforcement, fire, rescue and emergency services personnel.
On Thursday, Hogan reiterated his goal to exempt everyone’s retirement income from taxation after the state budget outlook improves. He said military veterans were a good group to help first.
“It shows our heart is in the right place,” Hogan said.
More than 50,000 Maryland veterans received military retirement income in 2013, according to legislative analysts. The average pension was about $28,000. Under current law, the first $5,000 of that is exempt from taxation.
Samuel Hofberg, 92, a retired Marine who fought in World War II, was among those who praised Hogan’s efforts Thursday.
Hofberg, a registered Democrat, said he supported Hogan in last year’s election and said he is hopeful he will deliver on the pension bill.
“For whatever reason, instincts or feeling, I think he’s going to make it happen,” Hofberg said.