Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Robert Lang and Associated Press
Governor Martin O’Malley says he is not abandoning plans to raise the gas tax in favor of raising the sales tax.
Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin reacts to the governor’s remarks on raising the sales tax.
WBAL’s Robert Lang reports on a rally by state workers.
Gov. Martin O’Malley said Wednesday he would prefer to raise the state’s sales tax instead of the one on gas to address the budget deficit and pay for road and highway repairs, but noted that revenue proposals are quickly changing.
O’Malley said he believes an increase in the sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent in a 2007 special session enabled Maryland to do things other states couldn’t during the recession.
He said he would prefer raise it again from 6 percent to 7 percent.
The governor says the sales tax increase is an alternative to plans to raise the gas tax to pay for road projects, or the “flush tax” to pay for municipal sewage treatment plants. He says raising the sales tax gives the state more flexibility in how to spend the money.
“It’s another idea. If the legislature doesn’t like the things that are proposed, I think we should remember that no one in our state lost their house, lost their job, or lost a business because of an additional penny on the sales tax,” O’Malley told reporters after speaking to members of the Maryland Senate on the first day of the 2012 Maryland General Assembly Session.
“One penny on the sales tax is a pretty big yield, and we still have a sales tax that is still the 32nd lowest in the country,” O’Malley added.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, quickly shot down the idea as “a non-starter.”
Republicans were also critical of the plan.
“This governor has not known a tax he didn’t embrace,” Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs of Harford County told WBAL News.
“This is outlandish. It is obvious that this man has never run a business, never had to meet a payroll, because you don’t do this in this tough economic time.” Jacobs added.
The governor says he will likely include some kind of tax hike when he unveils his budget next week.
O’Malley Unveils Legislative Redistrcting Plan
Gov. Martin O’Malley has sent Maryland’s state legislative redistricting map to the General Assembly.
CLICK HERE to view the governor’s redistrcting proposal.
O’Malley presented the map on Wednesday, the first day of the state’s 90-day legislative session.
The map creates 12 districts that are majority African-American. That’s an increase from 10 districts that the state’s highest court drew in 2002.
Lawmakers will have 45 days to approve the map or pass an alternative plan. If lawmakers don’t approve an alternative plan, the governor’s proposal becomes law.
Under the plan, Baltimore City loses one of its six legislative districts due to population losses.
That city district will be merged with parts of Baltimore County.
Busch, Miller Return To Roles
The opening sessions of the House of Delegates and the Maryland Senate were brief.
Mike Busch was re-elected House Speaker in a unanimous vote. Busch begins his tenth year as Speaker of the House, making him the longest serving Maryland House speaker in history.
Mike Miller was re-elected Senate President. He has held the post since 1987, and is the longest serving state senate leader in the country.
Governor Martin O’Malley spoke to each chamber today calling for cooperation between both parties on a variety of issues.
“This experiment in Democracy requires both wings, the right and the left, in order to fly,” O’Malley told members of the Senate.
State Workers, Wind Farm Supporters Rally On Opening Day
There were two demonstrations in Annapolis today as lawmakers were returning to session.
A coalition of state worker unions, and civil rights groups held what they called a “Save Our State” rally.
They are calling on lawmakers to close the state’s $1-billion budget deficit with what they say is “a balanced” approach of spending cuts and tax increases.
They claim that spending cuts of the last few years have been unfair to state workers. In the past, lawmakers have cut vacant positions, and imposed furlough days on workers.
The group believes the state can raise revenues by closing corporate tax loopholes and increasing income taxes on millionaires.
A group of wind energy supporters also staged a demonstration today.
They are urging lawmakers to consider establishing an off shore wind farm off the coast of Ocean City.
They say wind energy is a clean and efficient.
They also cite a poll saying most Marylanders support the idea.
Governor O’Malley proposed wind energy legislation last year that would have imposed an up to $2 monthly surcharge on electric bills to pay for the development of wind energy.