A leading Democratic senator said Friday that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) may be open to a compromise proposal for redrawing the boundaries of congressional districts, after his own plan has stalled in the legislature for three months.
Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery) said he met with Hogan, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and the governor’s chief of staff for nearly 25 minutes on Friday in a spirited discussion about Raskin’s proposal to create a “Potomac compact” that would allow an independent panel to draw congressional lines for Maryland and Virginia.
Raskin’s rationale is that a two-state approach would offset Democratic losses in Maryland as a result of boundaries being redrawn with similar GOP losses in Virginia.
“I found them very receptive to the idea,” Raskin said after his meeting Friday.
Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said the governor “doesn’t think a two-state solution is the realistic way to achieve this plan. He thinks Maryland should act.”
Raskin said in an interview that he is pushing the two-state option because Democratic legislative leaders said they would not consider Hogan’s bill. While he prefers the two-state option, the senator told Hogan he would vote in favor of Hogan’s proposal in the legislature if the Democratic legislative leaders ever brought it for a vote.
The back-and-forth was part of a busy day in Annapolis as lawmakers entered the final stretch of their 90-day session, quickly passing bills to each chamber for consideration.
The House Ways and Means Committee approved legislation that would expand tax credits for the working poor while reducing taxes for individuals and many businesses, setting up a likely floor vote on the package in coming days.
The bill was an amended version of a measure that overwhelmingly passed the Senate last month. It would reduce state revenue by an estimated $201 million, while the Senate plan would mean $227 million less for state coffers, according to lawmakers on the panel.
If the House passes its version of the bill, the two chambers would have to reconcile the differences between the two versions before sending the package to Hogan, who has expressed support for the Senate plan. The 2016 legislative session ends Monday, giving lawmakers a small window to move the legislation out of the House and negotiate a final agreement.
Both versions would expand eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit that helps the working poor, extending the benefit to low-income taxpayers who are 18 and older. Under current law, the tax credit only applies to low-income individuals with children.
The House committee rejected a provision that would reduce taxes for households earning more than $150,000, instead approving a more modest reduction that would allow individual filers to save $100 on their first $100,000 of income. Joint filers would save $150 on their first $150,000.
“If we’re giving tax cuts, we should give it to people who actually need it, like the middle class,” said Del. Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery), a member of the committee.
The Senate bill would also help middle-income taxpayers, but by increasing their personal income-tax exemption from $3,200 to $3,400 over four years.
The House also amended the Senate bill to allow multi-state corporations to base their tax rates on sales in Maryland rather than a combination of sales, property and payroll in the state. Supporters of the policy say it would benefit companies to move to Maryland or remain in the state, since many would face a lower tax burden under the “single-sales” method. But some Republicans have raised concerns about how the change would affect other businesses.
Del. Jason C. Buckel (R-Allegany) said he voted reluctantly for the bill despite opposing the single-sales provision. “I do appreciate the committee’s work putting in a middle-class tax break,” he said.
The Senate on Friday overturned two Hogan vetoes: a bill that creates a new method for determining which transportation projects are funded, and a measure that strips Hogan of five appointments to a commission that selects school board members in Anne Arundel County.
The House acted on the vetoes on Thursday.
The Senate also voted 31 to 13 to approve a $37.5 million tax credit over five years for Northrup Grumman Corp., an aerospace company based in Anne Arundel County.
Sen. Michael J. Hough (R-Frederick), who voted against the measure, called the bill “cronyism at its worst.” Others said the measure, pushed by the Hogan administration, amounted to “corporate welfare.”
Proponents of the bill said the tax credit will help the state’s economy and reward a good corporate citizen.
On redistricting, Raskin acknowledged that the idea of creating a redistricting compact would be a “novel invention,” but said it may be the “only thing to break the impasse” in the Maryland and Virginia legislatures.
“Everybody needs to give up a little bit of partisanship so we can gain a lot in principle,” said Raskin, who nearly missed the override vote on the transportation “scoring” bill while meeting with Hogan.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) stalled the vote while Sen. Catherine E. Pugh (D-Baltimore) rushed to the governor’s office to bring Raskin back to the chamber.