ANNAPOLIS – Putting the foundation under promises outlined in the Republican Contract with Maryland, GOP state senators unveiled their legislative agenda Thursday.
A middle-class tax cut topped the senators’ wish list for the state. The Republicans have proposed a 24 percent tax cut, in step with campaign promises made by their 1994 candidate for governor, Ellen R. Sauerbrey.
Senate Minority Leader John A. Cade, R-Anne Arundel, said this could be achieved by devoting the $200 million Gov. Parris N. Glendening has pared from programs to a direct tax cut.
“We think those funds must be earmarked for tax reduction,” Cade said during a Statehouse news conference. “Otherwise it’s just a big slush fund.”
While Glendening said he agrees that the money should go toward lowering taxes, he warned against haste.
“The $200 million ought to be in a tight reserve fund dedicated to help us make a meaningful income tax reduction,” he said in an interview.
The Senate Republican Caucus has introduced legislation to exempt individuals earning less than $1,000 a year from paying income tax. Individuals and married couples filing together would also receive a maximum personal exemption of $1,000 in addition to the current $1,200 exemption.
In addition to lowering taxes, Republican senators want to make it more difficult for the government to raise taxes.
The caucus has sponsored legislation that would require a supermajority, or three-fifths, of the Legislature to approve any increase in income or sales taxes.
Sen. Larry Haines, R-Carroll, said the supermajority vote would be more representative than the current simple majority.
“This is an order to instill some measure of trust between citizens and their legislators,” Haines said. “We don’t believe it’s un-democratic to allow citizens the right to say where their money goes.”
Keeping with the contract’s promise to implement lobbying reform, the caucus has introduced legislation prohibiting all gifts from lobbyists to General Assembly members and their staffs.
Sen. Martin Madden, R-Howard, said, “I think we should put an end once and for all to the perception that lobbyists influence the system.”
The Republicans also have proposed a constitutional amendment to control state spending. The amendment limits increases — or requires decreases — based on changes in Marylanders’ personal income over the prior three years.
Although the Legislature created the Spending Affordability Committee in 1982 to advise the governor, Cade said, “Gov. Glendening has chosen to ignore the committee’s recommendation by submitting a budget which exceeds the limit by $27 million.”
Finally, the Republican Caucus went beyond the Contract with Maryland and introduced a joint resolution to ratify the Balanced Budget Amendment to the United States Constitution. “We feel the federal government should be required to live within its means,” Cade said. -30-