Last week I sat in on a House Ways and Means Committee hearing in Annapolis and listened to testimony on a bill introduced by Montgomery County lawmakers, Del. Luedtke (D14), and Sen. Madeleno (D18). This bill would increase the tax on each pack of cigarettes one dollar from $2.00 to $3.00. I am against this bill, because I am against more taxes, especially on those which more heavily tax people with lower income.
Before I go on, let me say I never smoked myself. I never even put a cigarette to my lips. I DESPISE smoking. I cannot stand the smell. It leaves a dirty residue. It brings back bad memories for me. My father smoked and had lung cancer, though he died of pneumonia before the cancer could kill him. Until the day he died, he smoked three packs a day. As the price of cigarettes went up he would get angry, but would pay the price, even if my parents had to give up other things. He wanted to smoke, he had to smoke and no do-gooders were going to stop him! I believe this is the attitude of many habitual smokers.
While saying that this bill would discourage smoking, the argument on the other hand is that this tax would increase revenues to the state by millions. I don’t get it. If it does stop smokers from smoking then, we will lose all our revenue from tobacco. If we do get millions more in revenue, then it has done little to stop smoking, and we will be getting the revenue for the most part from people who can least afford it.
Almost everyone in this state lives about 45 minutes from another state where the price of cigarettes is lower. Were I a smoker, I would travel to those states to buy my cigarettes. If smokers do that, it’s a lose lose situation for Maryland. We lose all revenue from smoking and we do nothing to discourage smoking … but then … we would pick up a few bucks from gas tax.
See other comments on this bill at:
A Discussion of the Major Points in the Democratic Response to Governor Hogan’s State of the State Address
Ann Kaiser’s response to the State of the State sounds agreeably bi-partisan, and with the tone of her response, the citizens of this state should look forward to Democrats in the Legislature working with a Republican governor. This paper addresses her comments on education and the Chesapeake Bay.
Delegate Kaiser said we cannot grow our economy, boost private sector confidence to invest and attract new businesses to Maryland without a strong educated work force. And she says Democrats believe the most important investment government can make is in a well-educated workforce. It rather goes without saying, that we need strong educated people in the state. Republicans too obviously believe a strong education system is an absolutely necessary investment. We also believe that we have to look at education output not just input. Are all children in all areas receiving a quality education? Will an educated workforce continue to live here and work here, thus continuing investment in education with their taxes in the future? We need to keep our educated people here with high quality jobs and an affordable tax structure.
Unfortunately, with the loss of private sector jobs, many of the educated people who do live here travel outside the state to work. It is difficult to boost our private sector economy with companies leaving the state because of high corporate taxes and endless expensive regulations. We in Montgomery County are insulated from many problems associated with loss of private sector jobs because we have a large federal government workforce. But around the state and even in this county we need to open Maryland for business. Governor Hogan’s plan to make Maryland more competitive will work toward the goal of bring new business to the state as will his tax relief initiatives.
In discussing the value of education, Delegate Kaiser said we can boast that Maryland is one of the best in the country. But therein lies a problem since not long ago Maryland was considered THE best in education. What difference do expensive buildings make if good education does not reach all students in those buildings and if a large percentage of graduates going to Montgomery College still have to take remedial courses before starting college level courses? We must find better ways to give all children a vision for a bright future that comes with a solid education.
Delegate Kaiser stated that Maryland has an outstanding graduation rate of 86%. According to the college of Education at the University of Maryland, graduation rates are surprisingly difficult to measure. But even if that 86% for the state were accurate, that rate is not shared by Baltimore City or Prince George’s County with stated graduations rates of 56% and 69% respectively. While we in Montgomery County can point to some of the finest schools in the nation not all schools are equal, even in our county.
Working together, the Governor and legislature can bring money invested in education directly to the students in the classrooms rather than supporting bloated public school bureaucracies. Governor Hogan wants to give families choices and encourage more public charter schools to operate in Maryland with the hope making quality education available to all students.
It is encouraging that Delegate Kaiser and the governor agree on commitment to the bay. Because, as the governor said, even after spending $15 billion in Maryland tax dollars, the health of our Chesapeake Bay has declined and Maryland recently received a D+ on its report card for the bay. Working together the legislature and Governor’s office can find innovative ideas for balanced solutions and for addressing the sediment flowing from the Conowingo Dam. When Delegate Kaiser says Maryland prides itself on being the stewards of the Chesapeake Bay, I have high hopes we can make some progress in really fixing the bay.
Not all of the ideas expressed in Governor Hogan’s State of the State speech were covered by Delegate Kaiser. We have many problems to fix in this state but as she stated, “Now that the election is over, the real work of governing begins. Working together, we can ensure a better Maryland.”
The legislature working with the Governor would be a real winner for the State of Maryland.
Governor Hogan’s State of the State
Ann Kaiser’s response to State of the State
Last week the Montgomery County State Delegation accepted Ike Leggett’s end around scheme to bypass our County Charter approved by the voters in 1990, which says the County cannot take in an amount of real property tax revenue for a given year that exceeds the rate of inflation plus the value of new construction unless 9 Councilmembers vote to exceed the Charter limit.
In order to assure that the Purple Line be built and that the costly BRT plan be implemented. Leggett proposed a new taxing authority which would be able to impose taxes not limited by that charter. After the delegation approved the measure, there was an almost immediate hearing by the delegates, on a FRIDAY NIGHT in Rockville on that proposal,… not allowing for adequate preparation. But regardless of the rush, and though the usual special interests were there to support it, there was an outpouring of opposition by regular citizens. On Saturday Leggett withdrew his proposal for the independent Montgomery transit authority. Below is my testimony to the panel:
My name is Pat Fenati. I live in Damascus, You know in the upper part of the county that few of you think about and almost never visit. But we still have to pay taxes to pay for all the down county benefits and we will still sit in air polluting gridlocks even if this costly scheme is adopted.
There are three reasons I am against the County setting up it’s own transit system.
Giving tax authority to unelected appointees.
Effectiveness of the projects run by the transit system should depend almost entirely on how cost effective they are and if they reduce the commuting times. What are the projected ridership figures? How accurate are the numbers they are giving us?
Politico.com says that “All over the country From D.C. to Atlanta, from San Antonio to Salt Lake City, streetcar projects have run into delays, cutbacks and other snags, and some have been scrapped altogether. The most dramatic recent example was November’s demise of a $550 million, state-aided streetcar project in the liberal, traditionally pro-transit D.C. suburb of Arlington County, Va., which had turned politically toxic as its price tag more than doubled” Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/12/a-streetcar-not-desired-113804.html#ixzz3QL9w8jgT
While we are talking here about BRTs and not streetcars, both projects cut back lanes of traffic. BRTs bus stops are costly and in many cases BRTs will widen roads thus requiring the demolition of existing structures.
This county does not have a great track record in efficient use of the taxpayer’s money as is evidenced by the Silver Spring Transit Center, and consistent cost overruns in its building projects. How are we to believe this Transit Authority will handle our money effectively? Does Montgomery County really have billions of dollars to waste on projects that have been found to be prohibitively expensive other places? The cost will not only be in building the BRT’s but will also be in maintaining the system and subsidizing ridership. County taxpayers already pay 69 million dollars subsidizing Ride On commuters.
Another big worry is that the Montgomery County Transit Authority will coordinate construction of the purple line. If they (we) are doing the coordination, how much of the responsibility for cost overruns will be on it’s shoulders and not on Prince George’s County and the state?
There is another cost concern I have and that is my own. It has been estimated that the cost to the individual home owner will be 1,000 to 1,500 per year a cost for which I will have to pay but will receive no benefits for my payments.
Giving tax authority to unelected appointees.
What? Isn’t that what we declared our independence about in the 1700’s? How can we possibly surrender tax authority to an unelected body? They can look at the residents of this county as their deep pockets which they can pick at a whim. Under no circumstances will I accept such a scheme. Why should I when as the Franklin Center says Many areas have ended up millions of dollars poorer with little to show for it, and taxpayers are starting to realize that these shiny new public transit projects often don’t provide their promised economic boon. - See more at: http://franklincenterhq.org/11311/streetcars-light-rail/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utmampaign=franklinnewsletter_3#sthash.YCVIP67A.dpuf
Following is the Washington Post Article regarding the withdrawal of the proposal.
The Chesapeake is a National Treasure and it essential to Maryland. It is unmatched in its beauty. It is a highway for commercial shipping to bring goods into our country and to export products made here. It provides other jobs too as is it a source of food for millions. Water recreation provides leisure activities as well as jobs in the boating industry. But there is a problem...
Ever since I moved to Maryland in 1973 there has been talk of cleaning up the bay. I had young environmentalists knocking at my door to ask for donations. I have been forced to pay tax after tax for Bay cleanup. And still the Bay is not cleaned. We face major catastrophe when each large storm hits our area and sludge flows over the Conowingo Dam.
I would not begrudge the taxes I pay for the Bay if they were used for their original purpose. But our tax money which is promised to be put into a “Lock Box” for the Bay has been pulled out time after time into the General Fund to cover uncontrolled spending.
On the third of November this year Maryland Public Policy Institute (MPPI) hosted a forum on cleanup of the Bay. Christopher Summers from MPPI said that the people participating in the forum were there because they " care deeplt about the Chesapeoke Bay abd cherish the benefits and the beauty of that natural resource."
Solutions discussed ranged from “harnessing the biological potential of the Bay… using the food chain to combat nutrient loading,” to questions of problems on local estuaries, to dredging of the Conowingo Dam, to new Septic systems, to treating wastewater with yeast to create a system that can reuse sludge.
There was progress in the bay cleanup with Governor Ehrlich's Bay Restoration Act, an important pollution-reducing initiative that reduced pollution into the Bay by seven million pounds per year—cutting levels at that time nearly in half. I for one am looking forward to Governor Hogan’s administration which, after getting spending under control, can once again look for real solutions for the bay, actually using funds raised for bay cleanup to cleanup the bay… What a concept.
See original article:
Think Tank hosts forum on Bay cleanup