Senate looking for alternative tax hikes to avoid ‘doomsday’ budget, Miller says

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Senate President Mike Miller

Senate leaders are trying to find $500 million in tax hikes as alternatives to those proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley to avoid a “doomsday” budget with $1 billion in spending cuts, Senate President Mike Miller told reporters Tuesday.

“We’re looking at a different set of revenues than the governor has proposed,” Miller said.

The state has a billion-dollar structural deficit that must be filled.

O’Malley is seeking to limit exemptions and deductions for taxpayers making over $100,000, but Miller said there has been “a lot of pushback” on limiting the mortgage interest deduction.

Realtors are running radio ads asking citizens to call their legislators opposing the plan that would only allow 80% of the federal itemized deductions to be listed on tax returns for couples making over $150,000 and for single taxpayer making $100,000.

Miller did not discuss what taxes might be considered, but Senate Budget and Tax Chairman Ed Kasemeyer last year said the sales tax should be extended to more services. Among other options, budget committee members have been privately discussing expanding the number of services eligible for the sales tax, possibly combined with a roll back of the 6% rate.

Miller said, “You have the choice of revenues or cuts.” A “cuts only” budget might include reduction maintenance of effort funding for schools, a shift of teacher pension costs to the counties, and reductions in other programs.

“I hope that isn’t the case,” Miller said. “I hope we find 24 [senators] of good will and courage,” the majority needed to pass a tax increase.

“It’s going to be profiles in courage or profiles in hell,” Miller said. The choice is “either doomsday or continue to let the state make progress.”

Developmentally disable rally against budget cuts

One area that could face cuts is funding for developmental disabilities programs. Around 500 people turned out on Tuesday to rally outside the State House and lobby their legislators against that possibilty.

Joined by several Democratic and Republican legislators, rally goers vowed to keep fighting for necessary support.

Describing the issue as one centered around wages, Virginia Knowlton of the Maryland Disability Law Center said that many with disabilities simply want to work and be a part of their community.

–Len Lazarick