ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Parris Glendening asked the Legislature to support two controversial proposals outlined in his State of the State address Wednesday: pay school builders the prevailing wage and approve his gun control package, but a third issue may be the thorniest this session – his refusal to move up a planned income tax cut.
Early in his speech, Glendening tried to deflect criticism over his income tax cut position, saying the state’s $940 million surplus comes “even after enacting 21 tax cuts that put $2.4 billion back into the hands of our citizens.”
Yet bi-partisan support for the tax-cut measure, which would speed up the state’s 5-year, 10-percent income tax cut, seems to be building.
“The governor does not favor accelerating the income tax cut because it would take money away from his priorities, which are education K-12 and higher education,” said Raquel Guillory, the governor’s deputy press secretary.
In fact, the governor devoted $6.6 billion of his proposed $19.6 billion budget to elementary, secondary and higher education. Accelerating the tax cut has long been backed by the GOP, however Democrats are joining the call. “The surplus is there and it makes good sense if we move in that direction,” said House Majority Whip George Owings III, D-Calvert. “I think the legislative leaders are looking at that.”
Republicans are hoping the unprecedented surplus will persuade legislators to pass the decrease sooner.
“The hope was that the curse of the riches would necessitate some tax decrease,” said Senate Republican Leader Martin Madden, from Prince George’s County.
Glendening’s gun control package – mandating all guns sold in Maryland beginning in 2003 be so-called smart guns that only an authorized user can fire and requiring mechanical trigger locks – also faces an uncertain future.
Owings said he heard Speaker of the House Casper Taylor, D-Allegany, indicated some form of the legislation, which has not yet been drafted, will pass the chamber.
However, Owings will join many Republicans in fighting the bill.
“One day, people who have never even held a gun will realize that we already have enough laws on the books to protect the so-called children,” he said. “They will go after the prosecutorial side of things instead of this continual erosion of law abiding citizen’s rights.” He said the issue is more about politics than children.
Another Glendening proposal would provide a prevailing wage to all school construction projects in which the state kicks in at least 50 percent of the funds. He said the proposal would not increase costs. Republicans, however, said it will raise construction costs between 15 and 20 percent.
“If we listen to that then no one would get a minimum wage where it is now,” Guillory said. Republicans also are concerned the administration’s spending is outpacing the economy’s growth, Madden said.
“His word for spend is invest,” said House GOP Leader Robert Kittleman, from Howard County.