Thursday, February 16, 2006

When ideologies collide...

Two things that were once hallmarks of the conservative mind are lower taxes and smaller, decentralized government (that is, keeping public power in the hands of the public, and not some large bureaucracy). What happens when these ideals conflict?

For the second straight year, Howard County's state lawmakers have killed a bill aimed at reducing the county's income tax rate and one offering a property tax credit to senior citizens.

In a meeting Feb. 15, Howard County's delegation to the General Assembly voted to kill the bills, introduced by Del. Gail Bates, a Republican from Glenelg.

The first bill proposed reducing Howard County's income tax rate to 3 percent from 3.2 percent. While saying they sympathize and support efforts to reduce taxes, several members of the delegation who opposed the bill said cutting county taxes is the responsibility of county officials.

Bates' second bill would have required Howard County to grant property tax credits of between 30 percent and 50 percent on real estate owned by residents age 65 and older.

Bates has the lowering taxes part down, but she is a little off by suggesting that it is the role of state government to do this. Local taxes should be the domain of local governments, not a state legislature, which should be more concerned with, you know, state issues. Just because one doesn't agree with the entirely legal decisions of local elected officials doesn't mean one should usurp their power in the name of ideology. Thankfully, I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Also, those same elected officials with whom Bates disagrees have already approved a tax deferral program for seniors and are considering some type of general tax reduction (either property or income). But in the world of politics, I guess, it's all about who does it first.


Anonymous said...

Delegate Bates has offered her "Aging in Place" act for the last 3 sessions in Annapolis - The Councils feeble response was the deferral you mention which they passed last year when they found out that the County cannot do what Delegate Bates bill does. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who bought a $50,000 or $60,000 dollar house in the sixties and now the Assesed value and 5% annual increase are more that Social Security and your pension provide for? A deferral will not keep 80% of the elderly here, when they move we get young families with children who we have to educate at the rate of $80,000 - $90,000 to fully put thru Howard County Schools. I agree with Delegate Bates - if you would rather lose our seniors and all of their wonderful support of the community and have young families put more kids in our overcrowded schools than pat yourself on the back - Mission Accomplished!

Hayduke said...

I'm not fully aware of the details of the county tax deferral program for seniors. But that, I don't think, is the real issue. The real issue is Bates' over-stepping the boundaries between state issues and county issues. If she believes that "Aging in Place" is a truly worthy goal, than she should work to have a law enacted that requires this for all of the counties in Maryland. Or, find a way to use the state tax code to make this more feasible.
The choice you present -- between having "seniors and all of their wonderful support of the community" and having overcrowded schools -- is dubious. In reality, there are several other factors and impacts that aren't so black and white.
Finally, one can't forget the other side of this situation. Higher taxes mean higher property values, which mean more personal wealth, especially those who bought "a $50,000 or $60,000 dollar house in the sixties." To many seniors, including my parents, this is a significant part of the money they use for retirement. Maybe there's a way for seniors who want to age in place to tap into their equity without selling their house, and use this money for taxes. I don't know if this possible, but I'll look further into the county's program and Delegate Bates' propsal so at least next time I can speak with more authority.

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