ANNAPOLIS – A proposed income tax cut, job opportunities, casinos and increasing salaries and jobs for state police officers were the main issues for Baltimore and Harford county legislators during Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s State of the State address Wednesday.
Sen. Michael Collins, D-Baltimore County, said Glendening presented ambitious programs, many of them important for Baltimore County. In particular, Collins agreed with the Smart Growth initiative, a plan to curb suburban sprawl and help older communities thrive again.
“Many sections of Baltimore County are older communities,” Collins said. “The governor is on the right track to focus on old neighborhoods. His general focus on children, family and quality of life was the right theme to strike.”
In revealing his fiscal strategy for the coming year, Glendening once more said that Maryland could not balance its books through casinos.
“Only an irresponsible government would risk Maryland’s future – and our children’s future – on the spin of a roulette wheel,” Glendening said. “In other words, let me make this very clear: No casinos, no slots, no exceptions.”
Sen. David Craig, R-Harford, said, “I’m glad to see he came out strongly against casinos, that was good.”
Harford County has many horse farmers and racers, and Craig — unlike some others in the racing industry — says they have a lot to lose from slot machines at race tracks.
Craig also praised the governor for increasing state police officers’ salaries.
Glendening said it would be “foolish” not to approve the 10 percent raise for state troopers.
“Their wages fall far below two-thirds of similar police agencies in states throughout the region,” Glendening said. “They deserve to be adequately compensated for their dangerous work.”
Craig pointed out that “Harford County has had vacancies from state police officers that have retired for the last five years. The expansion of state police and salaries is good for us.”
Del. James Harkins, R-Harford, said the state will also play a major role in the locating of two companies’ distribution centers, Rite Aid and Solo Cup Co., in Harford County.
“The Sunny Day funds will play heavily into whether they come to Maryland or not,” Harkins said, referring to money set aside to attract jobs to the state. “Maryland has a bad rap for being a heavy tax state.”
In his address, Glendening said the income tax cut would help bring businesses to Maryland, and in turn, jobs.
“A good job is key to building a family. That means we must pull together to make a prudent and responsible tax cut in our personal income tax rate so that we can attract good-paying, family-supporting jobs to this state,” Glendening said.
Glendening has proposed doubling cigarette taxes, to 72 cents a pack, to make up for the income tax cut.
Craig also was disappointed with Glendening’s proposed income tax cut. “We’re still wondering about how we’re going to pay for it,” Craig said. “The tax cut isn’t soon enough or big enough.”
Del. Nancy Jacobs, R-Harford, agreed.
“I’m disturbed about his income tax cut reduction because ultimately it’s going to raise taxes in other areas,” Jacobs said. “What he is doing is taking out of one pocket and putting into another.”
But Del. John Arnick, D-Baltimore County, said the business community thinks the income tax cut will help.
“It would be nice to have an income tax cut if, one, we could afford it, and two, we knew where we get the money from to compensate for it,” Arnick said. “I don’t put as much emphasis on it as the business community does.”
Arnick said he does not agree with using the tobacco tax to compensate for the income tax cut.
“I’m not big on the tobacco tax,” Arnick said. “Tobacco was a legal substance, and people became addicted. Now it’s like a crime because we let them get addicted and there are all these punishments for a legal substance.”
Arnick does not believe that doubling the cigarette tax will prevent young people from smoking. “I haven’t seen many young people who won’t do what they want to do,” he said. -30-