By Justin Snow
The Senate worked into the night Wednesday as they pushed through the chamber’s package of state budget bills and added a new tax for people making more than $500,000 a year, facing a litany of criticism from Republican lawmakers.
Most notably, the Senate voted 26-20 for a late amendment to a bill that would already raise the state income tax by .25% for most Marylanders. The added amendment goes a step further, raising the bill’s proposed tax rate for anyone making over $500,000 from 5.5% to 5.75% for every dollar earned. The new provision would raise an additional $30 million in new revenue for aging schools.
The additional tax hike faced fierce opposition from Republicans who slammed the amendment as a job killer and raised questions over why the state needed an additional $30 million in revenue.
“We’re making tax history here,” said Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin. “There’s no other state in the country that has this kind of tax from dollar one with a piggyback tax.”
Republicans warned of the repercussions the increased tax could have on jobs and businesses in the state, claiming that it would hurt job creators making over $500,000 a year.
Sen. Lisa Gladden, D-Baltimore City, said the amendment was in fact a job creator, citing the correlation between good school systems and new facilities.
“We’re saying that we want to create people who can work and who can make money for our state,” Gladden said. “You need good buildings and you need new buildings [to do that].”
The proposed $35 billion budget that came out of Senate committees last week remained largely intact with the exception of a few technical amendments. The controversial shift of teacher pensions to county governments was not altered.
Republicans and some Democrats proposed a series of amendments throughout the session that would curb spending, but all were all defeated. Republicans seemed aware that they faced an uphill battle.
“I am the bug today, I am not the windshield,” quipped Pipkin.
Speaking to reporters after the chamber recessed, Senate President Mike Miller said that “a lot” of Democratic senators did not care for the adopted amendment, but wanted to move forward with the bill.
“It was a nod to the more progressive members of the caucus,” Miller added, predicting the finalized budget would be well received in the House of Delegates.
The Senate is expected to cast its final vote on the budget bills Thursday before they move to the House for their approval.