Surprise: Democrats propose more taxes as poll finds Marylanders think they’re already too high

Surprise: Democrats propose more taxes as poll finds Marylanders think they’re already too high

Del. Eric Luedtke. photo

By Len Lazarick

Stupid me for not reading the fine print when legislative leaders said they were not going to raise tax rates.

“Maryland’s new legislative leaders flatly ruled out raising income, property or sales tax rates this year to pay for sweeping education measures,” wrote Erin Cox in the lead to the Washington Post story.

Perhaps the Sun reporters missed the subtlety of the promise when they wrote in their legislative preview:

“…The legislature’s two new leaders are trying to pull off a historic feat: Pass sweeping reforms aimed at greatly improving the state’s public schools — and do it without a massive tax increase.

“In interviews with The Baltimore Sun, House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones and incoming Senate President Bill Ferguson said they have ruled out across-the-board increases to state sales, property or income taxes.”

All three of these experienced reporters probably recorded their interviews with Jones and Ferguson. While Cox mentions “rates,” the overwhelming impression was: We will not raise taxes on income, property and sales.

Hooray, that’s how Republican Larry Hogan got elected twice.

Then last Thursday, House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke, a former social studies teacher who is one of the sharpest, most articulate members of the progressive majority, unveiled a proposal that will lower the sales tax from 6% to 5%. Hooray again!

Taxing more than 80 services

But wait a minute. They will take that 5% and apply it to all kind of services that have never ever been taxed before, raising another $2.6 billion. Barbers, hairdressers and nail salons, plumbers and electricians, lawyers and accountants, newspaper advertising, financial advisers and fitness centers, labor on car repair, appliance fixing, home security, maybe on the services to pay your state taxes.

One Facebook posting lists more than 80 services that will now be taxed.

This will cost the average person only $3 a week, said Luedtke, as if anyone pays for anything by the week now that the milkmen and newsboys are out of business. That’s at least $150 a year.

Ferguson and other officials make the quite legitimate argument that the economy has changed, with services now dominating. He bemoans having a 19th Century tax structure for a 21st century government.

But the fundamental reason for taxing them is that after months of searching for ways to pay for the Kirwan commission education reforms without hitting the wallets of the middle class is that none of the proposals – sports betting, legalizing marijuana, revamping corporate taxes, taxing Google and Facebook ads– could produce the billions they need to fund the plans.

And what about the local jurisdictions who must come up with extra money from the same taxpayers? Their only option at the moment is raising the property tax, a regressive 18th century invention.

What do voters think?

A Goucher College poll taken Feb. 13-18 and released Monday found Marylanders generally support some of the Kirwan Commission proposals, though two-thirds say they’ve heard or read “nothing at all” about it.

When asked about state taxes, half the respondents said they are already too high, and 44% said they are about right.

Nearly three-quarters of Maryland residents say they prefer an income tax system where “people with higher incomes pay a higher tax rate than those with lower incomes.”

When asked about the relationship between taxes and government services in Maryland:

  • 37% would rather keep state services and taxes about the same as we have them now.
  • 28% would rather have more or improved state government services if that meant more taxes.
  • 28% would rather have fewer state government services in order to reduce taxes.

In her analysis, Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center that conducted the poll said:

“While the public continues to be largely unaware of the Kirwan Commission itself, large majorities of Marylanders recognize that public schools are facing the very problems its recommendations were designed to address. Residents across party lines largely agree that public schools need more vocational training and better-paid public school teachers.

“At the same time, a plurality of residents wants to keep state services and taxes at the current level, and a majority believe that state taxes are currently too high. Our results suggest that the costs of the Kirwan recommendations, rather than the merits of the plan, will be of concern to Marylanders.”

Here’s what the 713 poll respondents (83% interviewed on cell phones) said about Kirwan.

  • 93% agree that “public schools should offer more job or vocational training programs,” 4%
  • 85% agree that “the salaries of public school teachers are too low,” 10% disagree.
  • 76% agree that “many public school buildings and facilities in Maryland are run-down,” 16% disagree.
  • 69% agree that “public schools in Maryland don’t receive enough state funding,” 18% disagree.
  • 64% agree that “state funding for public schools is not spent effectively by school administrators,” 19% disagree.
  • The margin of error for the poll results is plus or minus 3.7%

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Navyman

    One more reason for residents to leave Maryland and retire to the south…what residents are left to educate? We sent our kids to Catholic Schools for 12 years and I don’t know anyone who would send their kids to public schools…they sucked when I had to go to Northern Parkway Jr. in the 70’s…busing mentality from dems ruined that era and they are back at it! Bye bye….!

  2. Mike

    We, the people of every other jurisdiction in Maryland, are TIRED of supporting poorly run and mismanaged Baltimore City.

    You, the Legislature now want to change the edu formula so that Balt City can get more State money to fund their share of Kirwan, a Kirwan plan that Mayor Young supports.

    For crying out loud, Legislators, ALL THE MONEY YOU FOLKS SPEND COMES FROM THE SAME BUCKET, whether State or County money. What is it that you guys and gals don’t understand about that concept?

    All I hear from Balt City is: “We need more State money!” Really!? Good grief!

    And now, Balt City wants HUNDREDS OF MILLION MORE of Marylanders Dollars to keep Pimlico going,
    HUNDREDS OF MILLION to fight “their” crime problems.

    You, Balt City Mayor and City Council, screwed up Balt City so bad people are leaving by the hundreds.
    That’s why you can’t afford anything. You want all the other citizens of Maryland to send you their money to so you can mismanage more of it. Sorry, the Magic Money Tree is dead!

    We’ve got a situation in my home County, Kent County, wherein implementing Kirwan is going to increase our County edu expense by a whopping 62% over its current level. But you don’t hear us crying for more State money. And, we have a 15% poverty rate, with many, many more households living pay check-to-pay check.

    Everyone should go to the Web site: CHANGEANNAPOLIS.COM
    Click on ACTION CENTER, then click on the SIGN THE PETITION TO OPPOSE THE $2.6 BILLION TAX INCREASE. And sign it.

    Mike Waal
    Chestertown, MD

  3. Dale McNamee

    Keep on voting for the Democrats, folks ! You complain about taxes and yet, you keep on electing those who keep on raising taxes on you as they tell you with weepy eyes that it’s ” for the children who need ‘ world class schools ‘ “… < sarcasm And what about senior citizens like my wife and I, who are on fixed incomes ? How are we going to afford to remain here ? Hmm ? We don't have any children attending school... And is it fair that childless people and couples, as well as those families who have children in non-public schools and those who homeschool pay increased taxes for facilities that they are not using ? I have lived here since 1986 and want to know where all of the $ MILLIONS that are annually budgeted by the state on an ever increasing rate and part of the overall budget have gone ? Where did the Casino tax revenue go ? Where did the $1 BILLION Thornton Plan monies go ? All of those monies certainly did not go into the schools or the students !

  4. Mike

    Without a doubt, people are in favor of improving the Maryland education system to be globally

    Respect is expressed for the effort the Kirwan Commission members put into this study and their
    recommendations, TO A POINT!

    As we know, the Kirwan Commission estimated the cost to implement their recommendations to be
    approximately $4,000,000,000.00 per year, every year, cumulatively.

    To illustrate the gravity of this HUGE NUMBER on Marylanders, let’s, for example, spread the cost of Kirwan evenly over all Maryland households.

    Per Census, there are approximately 2,200,000 Maryland households. Simple math, this amounts to
    approximately $1,818.00 additional expense per household, per year, every year, cumulatively,
    for 10 years; $18,180.00.

    Although this funding example will probably not be implemented, it is an eye opening calculation.

    And, as we all know, any TAX OR FEE imposed by the General Assembly to fund Kirwan
    WILL TRICKLE DOWN to the BASIC SOURCE OF ALL MONEY for the State and Counties,
    down to all Marylanders, i.e., HB1628.

    While we are supposedly a wealthy State, we have a 13% poverty rate in Maryland, with many, many more households living pay check-to-pay check. How in the world will those households afford the
    passed-thru costs of Kirwan?

    We continually discuss the need for affordable housing in MD. Real estate taxes, which will be
    significantly raised to fund Counties share of the cost of Kirwan, are part of the budget and financial
    plan for affording a home; we are trying to entice young families to stay-here, move-here.

    Funding Kirwan could very well be anti-growth, hindering all important student population growth.

    Question: Who among us would decide to fully upgrade our home with: new roof and siding; new
    cabinets, countertops, sinks, faucets for kitchen and bathroom[s]; all new kitchen appliances – refrig,
    dish washer, stove, oven; plus a new refrig in basement or garage; fresh coat of interior paint; all new
    light fixtures; a new heating and a/c system; construction of a room addition and a patio; and a new
    driveway, without first and foremost, being prudent, practical and sensible people, establishing how
    much we can afford and how we are going to pay for it? NO ONE!

    What everyone would do, being prudent, practical and sensible, is list in decreasing order of importance what needs to be done on a priority basis, implement your home [edu] improvement plan based on a affordable budget, and most importantly when you can afford it.

    This evening on Fox 45 TV, Dr. Kirwan stated the recommendations don’t have to be implemented all at once! We should take that advise.

    Mike Waal

    • Blondlady

      And, as we all know, any TAX OR FEE imposed by the General Assembly to fund Kirwan
      WILL TRICKLE DOWN to the BASIC SOURCE OF ALL MONEY for the State and Counties,
      down to all Marylanders, i.e., HB1628.

      Democrats have never met a tax or fee they didn’t like.

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