Maryland Special Session – Inside Baseball

Posted on November 12, 2007


For Maryland politics fans, here’s an “inside baseball” look at the General Assembly Special Session votes so far on Gov. Martin O’Malley’s tax and slots initiative.

First, in the House of Delegates vote passing the mildly progressive income tax bill, 82-55, 18 Democrats voted no, along with all 37 Republicans. In the House vote passing the sales tax bill, 80-56, 19 Democrats joined the Republicans in voting no. A few Democrats voted for the progressive income tax and against the the regressive sales tax, which would be a logical and consistent Democratic position on the two taxes.

All 37 Republicans in the House and all 14 Republicans in the Senate voted the Republican Party line against taxes.

Now, a look at the votes of some individual Democratic legislators in key districts, starting with District 14, northeast Montgomery County, where I live. Sen. Rona Kramer was the only Montgomery senator voting against the Senate tax package, but the District 14 delegates did not follow her lead. Del. Herman Taylor and Del. Anne Kaiser voted yes on both the income tax and sales tax bills. Del. Karen Montgomery was one of four House Democrats listed as “excused” from voting. Del. Taylor and Del. Kaiser voted the best interests of the vast majority in District 14. Sen. Kramer voted the interests of the rich. She has some explaining to do in District 14.

In District 42, where Sen. James Brochin made such a publicity splash by offering to join a Republican filibuster last week, Democratic Del. Stephen Lafferty surprised me by following Brochin’s lead and voting against both tax bills. The other two District 42 delegates are Republicans. Party voting patterns in District 42 are as close to 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans as any district in Maryland.

In Baltimore County’s District 6, the conservative but Democratic Dundalk district, veteran Sen. Norman Stone voted against the tax bill. All three Democratic delegates in District 6 followed Stone and voted against both tax bills. They are Del. John Olszewski, Del. Joseph Minnick, and Del. Michael Weir.

In Baltimore County’s liberal Democratic District 11, Pikesville and Owings Mills, legislators were all over the place. Sen. Bobby Zirkin voted against the tax bill in the Senate. Del. Jon Cardin voted yes on both tax bills in the House. Del. Dan Morhaim voted no on the income tax bill, but yes on the sales tax. How do you explain that one?  Del. Dana Stein voted yes on the income tax, but no on the sales tax, which makes sense to me.

In the conservative Baltimore County subdistrict of District 12 which includes Bob Ehrlich’s hometown of Arbutus, Del. James Malone cast a courageous Democratic yes vote on the income tax, but a logical no vote on the sales tax. Del. Stephen DeBoy voted no on both bills.

In conservative Worcester County, former Ocean City mayor Del. James Mathias voted a Democratic yes on the income tax and voted no on the sales tax. The support on the income tax bill may enhance Del. Mathias’ standing in the Democratic caucus to oppose slots at the Ocean Downs harness track. I’ll have to explain why slots are so hated in Ocean City, when I have time.

Last and possibly most puzzling, in District 17 in central Montgomery County, Del. Luiz Simmons voted no on both tax bills. Simmons has also been a vocal opponent of slot machines. The only conclusion I can draw is that Del. Simmons is against raising additional revenue from any source, and must therefore favor deep cuts in spending. Those with long memories in Montgomery County politics might recall that Del. Simmons began his career as a Republican.  — Bernie Hayden