ANNAPOLIS – Funding a state income tax cut and bolstering roads, schools and housing to cope with the expected influx at Patuxent River Naval Air Station topped the Southern Maryland delegation’s agenda at Wednesday’s General Assembly opening.
The region’s representatives roundly rejected Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s proposal to pay for a 10 percent personal tax decrease with increased tobacco taxes.
“No, no, no, no, no, no!” Sen. Roy Dyson, D-St. Mary’s, said. “No way, no how, no sense, no point.”
Dyson favors finding budget savings over tax hikes.
“In a $14 billion budget,” Dyson said, “You’ve got to be able to find a couple 100 million.”
Del. Thomas E. Hutchins, R-Charles, agreed.
“You don’t want to fund a tax cut with a tax increase,” Hutchins said.
Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell, R-St. Mary’s, brought up Southern Maryland tobacco farmers, cautioning that politicians, in their zeal to attack big tobacco, “lose sight of the fact that these are real people, families making a living.”
Del. Van T. Mitchell, D-Charles, who chairs the delegation, prefers the state sales tax adjustment offered by House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. Taylor would increase the range of the sales tax to cover the growing service and high technology industries.
The fifth lowest rate in the country, Maryland’s sales tax “is tied to an old economy of manufacturing,” Taylor said from the House floor.
The speaker wants the tax to tap into the “fast-growing consumer, business services and high technology industries.” Doing so, he hinted, might even enable the state to reduce the sales tax rate.
Much of the local agenda revolves around the expansion of Patuxent River Naval Air Station, where 5,000 new high-tech workers are expected to join a base that now employs about 12,200 and provides one of every three jobs in St. Mary’s County.
School and road projects, including the Maryland Route 301 upgrade and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge rehabilitation, are Mitchell’s priority this session. The area’s booming population, coupled with the Pax River expansion, have stressed county budgets and Mitchell wants the state to help.
Del. George W. Owings III, D-Calvert, called the Wilson Bridge project “essential” and “a vital link between the three jurisdictions” of Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Other local issues include the re-affiliation of historic St. Mary’s City with St. Mary’s College and renaming Charles County Community College to indicate its importance to Calvert and St. Mary’s counties.
No name has been chosen. But Owings said that “although Charles has been the home county of the college for the past 30 years, it has reached a population saturation point. The feeder counties of Calvert and St. Mary’s are experiencing the greatest growth, and the name needs to reflect that.”
Statewide topics include stimulating job growth, a state trooper pay raise, the proposed Baltimore city school settlement, dredging the Port of Baltimore and casino gambling.
Lawmakers also expect to deal with several environmental issues, including the looming June deadline for the new Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program and the environmental reclamation of what Owings called “currently soiled and spoiled sites,” known as “brownfields” projects. Del. John F. Slade III, D-St. Mary’s, praised the tone of Wednesday’s opening ceremonies, borrowing a word from Speaker Taylor: “upbeat.” -30-