@BryanRenbaum
bryan@marylandreporter.com

Sen. Brian Feldman, D-Montgomery, introduced a bill that is scheduled for a hearing next week, which calls to establish a commission to study Maryland’s tax code and make recommendations about how to make it more practical for the 21st century.

“The bottom line is we haven’t really in a formal way reviewed our tax code since the mid-1980s,” Feldman told MarylandReporter.com in an interview at his Annapolis office on Thursday.

Feldman said previous efforts to address the issue yielded few results. He said part of the idea for a commission came from legislation passed in Georgia.

“They set up a commission not too long ago to do the same kind of thing: take an overview in a wholistic way of the entire tax code and come back with some recommendations in a major way about a code that reflects the 21st century economy.

“What the result of that was, was actually income tax decreases and rate decreases — but a broadening out of the sales tax and some other pretty significant changes.”

Feldman said the commission would not just be comprised of lawmakers but would include members of the business community as well as other “stakeholders from around the state.”

The legislation addresses tax reform in a more comprehensive way than other proposals that have been introduced, he asserted.

“Everybody has these bills in, and we’re having all these kinds of debates in different bills about tax revenue, Kirwan funding — and I don’t know where all those bills are gonna go. I don’t know what’s gonna pass. But what I do know is, I think this is a good opportunity, rather than have this piecemeal bill-by-bill approach.”

Feldman was asked if the Hogan administration supports the legislation.

“I don’t know that they would be opposed. All this ends up doing is sending a set of recommendations to the governor. Obviously, the governor can look at these recommendations and take some, or take all of them, or do nothing.”

Feldman further clarified: “I have not heard from them one way or the other. Nobody’s suggested they’re opposed to it. I’ve not heard either way. But there is Republican support on the co-sponsor line, which I think lends some support to the idea that this is not a partisan effort.”

The bill has two Republican co-sponsors. They are Andrew Serafini, Washington, and Mary Beth Carozza, Lower Eastern Shore.

MarylandReporter.com contacted the office of Gov. Larry Hogan for comment.

“We have not taken a position on this bill, but will review the legislation,” Press Secretary Shareese Churchill said in an email.

Feldman was asked what changes he would like to see made to the tax code.

“I don’t want to pre-judge it. To be perfectly candid, I don’t want to pre-judge what this commission could come up with.”

The legislation, SB223, Commission on Tax Policy, Reform and Fairness, provides that the panel would be comprised of 17 members. That number includes five that would be appointed by the governor, two from the Senate and appointed by the president of the Senate, and two from the House of Delegates that would be appointed by the speaker. In addition to politician and members of the business community, the commission would include professors. The commission would be required to submit a final report on its recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly by Dec. 1, 2021.

The legislation was introduced in a previous session but failed to gain traction.

The hearing on the bill is scheduled for Jan. 29 at 1 p.m. EST in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

Feldman is vice-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. The tax attorney served in the Justice Department’s tax division from 1998-2001.