Time for Montgomery to Chill on the Income Tax

Posted on November 1, 2007

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The wailing of a few Montgomery County Democrats is becoming a downright embarrassment in Maryland politics. The General Assembly is trying to accomplish progress during this special session. The assembly doesn’t need this distraction.

County Executive Ike Leggett, Sen. Rona Kramer (District 14) and Del. Luiz Simmons (District 17) have been protesting for weeks about the pain and suffering that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s income tax proposal will inflict on the rich and near-rich in Montgomery County. They worry that:  a) More rich people live in Montgomery than in other counties, and b) More tax dollars would be collected in Montgomery County than other counties.

Well of course. More rich people live in Montgomery because more of all kinds of people live in Montgomery. More tax dollars would be raised in Montgomery because there are more taxpayers in Montgomery. Montgomery County has by far the largest population of any jurisdiction in the state. We have nearly a million people in this county.

Leggett, Kramer and Simmons are perpetuating the hoary myth that everyone in Montgomery County is well-to-do. We have some of the rich and near-rich here, in Chevy Chase, Potomac, and a few in Bethesda. What does it matter where taxpayers live? A lot of very affluent folks live in Howard County. Those horse farms in northern Baltimore County are not owned by paupers. Unless you can prove me wrong, I think there are more millionaires per capita on the shores of  Talbot County than in Montgomery County.

The fact is, and Leggett, Kramer and Simmons know it, the vast majority of folks in Montgomery County are middle class and working class. There are poor people here, more than you would think. And a lot of people are only a paycheck away from defaulting on their student loans, not to mention their mortgages.

Fact is, only 5.2 percent of Montgomery County taxpayers would pay more taxes under O’Malley’s progressive income tax proposal. That means that 94.8 percent would pay the same or less. Check my math: 94.8 percent of Montgomery taxpayers would be unharmed by or would be paying less taxes under the O’Malley plan.

So why are Leggett, Kramer and Simmons aghast at a progressive income tax that would benefit 94.8 percent of their constituents? Why are they taking sides with the 5.2 per cent minority against the 94.8 percent majority? What part of progressive income tax don’t they understand?

The only explanation I can think of is that the wailing by Leggett, Kramer and Simmons is little more than a political show to placate a small, conservative minority, and to give cover to a few timid delegates. Maybe they are spokespersons willing to take the heat, to say embarrassing, foolish things in public. As a result of their labors, the entire delegation will be able to do the right thing, which is to vote for the progressive income tax. The entire delegation will be able to say they tried to protect the 5.2 percent of rich and near-rich from the unthinkable pain of paying their fair share of taxes.

I don’t have inside information. I haven’t talked to a single member of the delegation. But what other explanation can you come up with for this foolish fuss by Leggett, Kramer and Simmons? They are strong enough to take the heat, and I, for one, will not hold it against them. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.  — Bernie Hayden

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