House panel cool to Se­nate tax hikes

Teacher-pen­sion bill ac­cel­er­ated

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY DAVID HILL

AN­NAPO­LIS | A Mary­land House com­mit­tee voted Mon­day night to sig­nif­i­cantly dial back a set of in­come-tax in­creases ap­proved last week by the state Se­nate.

The House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee voted to elim­i­nate any in­cometax hikes on sin­gle res­i­dents mak­ing less than $100,000 a year and on cou­ples earn­ing less than $150,000 from a Se­nate plan that calls for nearly across­the-board tax hikes af­fect­ing ev­ery in­come bracket above $3,000.

In ad­di­tion to giv­ing re­lief to many mid­dle-class res­i­dents, the com­mit­tee also killed the Se­nate’s so-called “half-mil­lion­aire’s tax,” which would have im­posed a flat 5.75 per­cent tax rate on ev­ery dol­lar made by res­i­dents earn­ing $500,000 or more.

The Se­nate ap­proved the flat tax last week as part of a bill that would have raised tax rates on nearly ev­ery tax bracket and net­ted the state more than $400 mil­lion in rev­enue next year.

Ways and Means Com­mit­tee mem­bers said their in­come-tax in­creases would only gen­er­ate $191 mil­lion, but would in­clude the re­vival of a pro­posal to re­duce the value of per­sonal ex­emp­tions for the state’s high­est earn­ers.

While the panel de­lib­er­ated Mon­day night, the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee also ap­proved changes to the Se­nate’s plan for shift­ing teacher-pen­sion costs to coun­ties, opt­ing for a three-year phase- in rather than the Se­nate’s rec­om­mended four-year plan.

The House pro­posal would re­duce state ex­penses by re­quir­ing coun­ties to take on an ex­tra $137 mil­lion in costs next year. The Se­nate plan would have only forced them to pay $68 mil­lion next year.

Mary­land is one of a hand­ful of states that pays teacher-pen­sion ben­e­fits with­out help from lo­cal gov­ern­ments, and crit­ics have long ar­gued county gov­ern­ments that set salaries and ben­e­fits should take on some of the bur­den.

“This is an im­por­tant ac­tion,” said Del­e­gate John L. Bo­hanan Jr., St. Mary’s Demo­crat. “We’ve been talk­ing about this for a long time, and we’ve got to do it to keep our state bud­get bal­anced.”

The in­come-tax and teacher-pen­sion pro­pos­als are part of a Se­nate-ap­proved, four-bill bud­get that the full House will de­bate and could ap­prove as soon as the end of this week.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the House and Se­nate will then likely have to meet in a con­fer­ence com­mit­tee to set­tle the dif­fer­ences in their plans.

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