So, it’s official: a task force will study the last-minute, hyperpolitical senior tax cut passed by four guys who aren’t around anymore and Calvin Ball (the last county council). Though I support some sort of tax relief for overburdened, fixed income seniors, I’m not a fan of this particular cut -- for reasons you can read about here.
The task force is charged with analyzing the tax cut and recommending changes (a good place to start would be an assets test). There’s considerable concern, however, with the time frame the task force is operating under -- they’re set to convene on January 19 and, well, here’s the Examiner’s summary:
The group must make recommendations by Feb. 22, in case the council wants to change the law, passed unanimously in October, which grants a 25 percent tax break to seniors age 70 and older making less than $75,000 a year. The group will have until November to review how many people take advantage of the tax cut and how it has affected the county budget. The group will also “monitor changes to state law that relate to senior tax policy and review similar credits in other Maryland counties,” the resolution states.
So, they have just over a month to recommend changes that could be made before this year’s tax bills go out, after which point repealing or amending the tax code would be akin to raising taxes for seniors, not a good thing, politically speaking.
Does this seem too short a time frame to you, even considering the broader work of the committee which will last until November?
My take is that this is probably the perfect amount of time, and here’s why: Most of the 17 members of this task force will be reasonably well-informed, connected and engaged in the community. Like you and I – people who follow this stuff closely – they’ve known for a while about the tax cut, the task force, the short time frame, all that. Chances are, they’ve already made up their minds.
What’s more, most of the number-crunching (fiscal impact analyses) have been conducted and simply need to be reprinted for members of the task force to glance at as they barrel towards their deadline.
Therefore, a month should be plenty of time to come up with a few recommendations and draft a few pages of text in support of them. The longer a committee serves, I think, the higher the risk of it getting stuck in a quagmire. See, for instance, the rural west preservation committee from last year.