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Volume 15, Issue 47 ~ November 22 - November 28, 2007


Bay Fund Sweetens Bitter Pill of New Taxes

It’s been tough keeping up with the taxing frenzy in Annapolis that seeks to repair a mysterious budget deficit that never should have happened.

The billion dollar-plus shortfall that evolved in recent years is enough to tarnish your faith in political leaders in both parties given that a Republican was in the governor’s office when the usual Democratic-controlled General Assembly convened over four of the last five years.

But that’s another story, and voters will have ample opportunity in coming months to get revenge as the ’08 political season heats up. (We’ll also be hearing a lot from both sides about the referendum to allow slots in Maryland.)

For now, Baysiders have some odious new taxes to think about, among them a penny more sales tax, a whopping hike in the corporate income tax and some computer taxes that amount to a slap upside the head to programmers and related businesses. It’s also too bad the General Assembly didn’t see fit to go along with Gov. O’Malley’s desire to roll back property taxes.

There is some comfort, though, in knowing that the structure of our income taxes is about to become more progressive, with the wealthiest among us paying slightly higher rates. The new legislation also could make it harder for out-of-state companies to shelter money they make in Maryland, a change that should make rejoicing for all of us.

On another score, we’re quite pleased that the assembly agreed in the final hours on a new $50 million restoration fund for Chesapeake Bay. It is a landmark piece of legislation.

There was a lot of talk in this frenzied session about a Green Fund, as well as an ill-advised funding proposal to draw from Program Open Space money. That would have been like saying you planned to start borrowing grocery money from your household budget.

Not until near the end were the specifics in place for an annual $50 million Bay Fund. Negotiators wisely dedicated money from other pots and added receipts from rental car taxes paid for by all those out-of-staters who fly here and rent cars.

The money will be spent to fix farm runoff and stormwater problems, which combine to poison the Chesapeake with fertilizers, pesticides and various pollutants that spoil Bay waters and diminish aquatic life.

The long overdue program will help Maryland begin living up to its Bay commitments made years ago in an interstate agreement — and perhaps shame other states into doing their part.

It will be tough reaching deeper into our pockets to live in Maryland, already a high-tax, heavy-regulation state. But at least those of us who live in Chesapeake Country can take solace in knowing that on at least one score, we — and the Bay — came out okay.

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