Readers Reply

Where’s the money going to come from? If you say no new taxes, what are you willing to give up?
    To those questions, posed in my Editor’s Letter of February 23, readers had lots to say. Here are your replies, edited for succinctness.

Don’t Forget the Teachers

Steve Fletcher, Severna Park

    When you talk about police officers and firefighters scraping by while risking their lives, please include teachers.
    Whenever I write to our Anne Arundel County Council, I always include all three. When it boils down to priorities, parents want their children to be cared for, well-educated and given guidance in their schools. In the same vein, safety across all venues comes into play: school, homes, neighborhoods and public places.
    Teachers are sorely overlooked. We have not gotten raises, step- or cost-of-living adjustments for three years, and prices and taxes have been going up. We are asked to do more with less, take into account more aspects of children than ever before and are held accountable moreso than the other two groups because what we do is measurable. Can these other two groups claim to be the best in the country, as Maryland schools have been rated three years in a row?
    We are overlooked because many people think our jobs are simple, we get the summers off (though most work to make ends meet) and have Cadillac benefits. Schools are taken for granted, and as for teaching, anyone could do it — right? That’s the thinking of sound-byte voters who have no idea what it takes to be a teacher.

Yours, Mine and Our ­Grandchildren’s Pockets

Susan Shaw, Calvert County Commissioner

    You point out that “each one of us has a special interest so dear to our heart that we know it should be the exception when funding fails.” Emphasis is mine.
    You have just identified the problem. Our elected state leadership has funded every priority until now the money has more than run out.
    I say more than run out because the state began bonding operating costs before now. Our children will have to pay off those bonds for money the state is spending now because the people we elected to make the hard choices about what is a priority and what has to wait have not done so. Rather than seeking efficiencies, they have continued with business as usual, keeping outdated and unsustainable promises.
    A good example is the Teachers’ Pension System. It is an outdated defined benefit plan that costs four times as much as a defined contribution plan. 
    If this inability of the state to streamline and to adopt a business-like model with efficiencies and cost-cutting continues, the answer to your question is from your pocket and mine, our children and grandchildren’s pockets, depending on the length of the bonds.
    The only difference is, the state will decide how our money is spent, on the priorities the state determines, rather than you and I spending our money on the priorities for our families.

Reform the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System

Connie Palombi, Calvert County

    I am against the decision to pass the failing Maryland State Retirement and Pension System to the local county governments.
    I propose allowing all current account holders the option to withdraw all funds, with no fees, taxes, penalties attached, and to put them into an IRA fund. This would save the state operating costs and benefit each account holder in controlling the investment, not claiming the yearly contributions (currently 7.5 percent of the employee’s salary) as yearly income on their Maryland income taxes and reaping the rewards of a deduction on the yearly federal income tax.
    I am a public school employee, not a teacher, but mandated to be enrolled in the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System, as are all public school employees.
    I am not a rebel, but I am at that point where I want to demand a tax refund on every failed government ruling (i.e.: No Child Left Behind, vehicle registration, etc.) from the government representatives’ personal pockets. They surely have taken money from us to fund their highly debated, educated, common-sense rulings.
    As a law-abiding citizen, I do not look for handouts but will help anyone in need if I can. I believe we all are feeling the crunch. And I believe the behavior and decisions of our government continue to need our support and input, but also our final say.

Everyone Needs to Pay Reasonable Taxes

Frank Fox, Mechanicsburg

    Fear. It exudes from the media regularly. News stories of gruesome accidents and violent crime vie with reports of families struggling with the cost of living in some of the richest counties in the United States.
    Fear, often masquerading as anger, also appears in letters to the editor blaming all levels of our government for difficulties in our lives. Often targeted are Congress, the governor, the national debt, Steny Hoyer and especially taxes.
    I am reminded of a comment attributed to President Jimmy Carter reflecting on the adversities many Americans face trying to get by: “Life is hard,” he said. Sometimes in our extreme individualism, we may feel as though we must confront this inevitable struggle alone.
    But in addition to individualism, we have another philosophy in this country: compassion. Within both religious and secular associations, Americans have a history of coming together to help those less well-off.
    The challenge we face as citizens is to care for our most vulnerable while insisting that our governments — local, state, and national — live within their means. Our country, though recovering from a recession caused by financial greed and deregulation, is not broke.
    Everyone needs to pay reasonable taxes. I’ve always thought of taxes as investments in a strong society that ultimately supports my life. We can also close the loopholes and tax breaks that continue to allow corporations and the super-rich to reap the benefits of our country without paying their fair share.
    We can afford to provide services essential for the well-being of all of us — education, health care, public safety, national security … In doing so, we can live in a country where we all have the freedom to follow our dreams successfully and without fear.

A Society Gets the Government It Deserves

Douglas R. Hile, Ridge

    It seems that you are resigned to allow the Democratic leadership of this state to subject us all to tax slavery.
    They have been using the same tired rhetoric since I was old enough to understand politics. Schools, Police, Fire and Health Care are the sacred cows always brought to the chopping block, whenever the tax-and-spend czars want more money for their own favorite money pits. These four are worthy of the money we spend, if that money is spent wisely.
    The vast amount of waste, fraud, graft, and other squandering of tax money would then cover these four essential expenses, but the taxpayers are continually squeezed for more money to cover the waste, not the core costs.
    You ask, “where do we find the money for the common-weal we share?”
    We must convince the people we have elected, to do this. If they refuse, and continue their Tax, Spend and Waste attitude, then they must be voted out.
    Right now is the time to tell the governor, the legislature, the federal government and the president No New Taxes.