Monday, February 27, 2012

Return of the Fire Tax (Monday LINKS)

As I noted on Saturday, we can expect the proposal of a county-wide fire tax to be on the lips of many a county-watcher over the next month or so.  A friend of the blog noted that contrary to the news coverage and my post, this is not the first time Executive Ulman has proposed a county-wide system.  In fact, when presenting his first budget as an Executive in 2007, Ulman proposed a county-wide tax of 13.55 cents per $100 assessed value, which constituted a 3 cent rise in the west and 1 cent rise in the "metro" areas.  It is interesting to note that in 2007, Executive Ulman was comfortable submitting his county-wide proposal with the Budget whereas in 2012 he wants the fire tax issue resolved before showing his hand.

At that time, Council-member Greg Fox commented that until Ken could show that the services in the West would be equal to those in the metro regions, he would not be supporting the increase.  Greg was able to convince a majority of the Council and limit the increase to 1 cent per $100 assessed value across the County, maintaining the disparity between Metro and Rural regions.  Notably, the 13.55 cents per $100 assessed value represents the rate for "real property" and not "personal property" (which I could use some help distinguishing in terms of how a fire tax applies).

Either way, the fact that the Executive is attempting the same proposal twice with an identical set of Council members makes you wonder what has changed since 2007.  My presumption is that the aspirations for higher office will probably allow the fire department to turn a swing vote, presuming that the Council is split 3-2.  Greg Fox scored a considerable victory in the last round, having convinced a new Council that his district should receive protection from a county-wide tax, despite being in the political and geographic minority, but that probably does nothing for his confidence in this bout.

Most interesting to me is the apparent bifurcation of the fire tax from the Budget.  It is a naked move to take numbers out of the conversation and one that is unlikely to go very far.  You can't talk about taxes without talking about numbers.  Period.  If I were the Council, I would go back to the Administration and request proposed rates.  Otherwise, you are setting all of us up.


Great Headline:  Assembly Shift Attention from Love to Money.  Now we're talking about taxes.  It seems likely that it is just a matter of "which ones", but I would expect there to be a lot of talk about making substantial cuts to the Governor's Budget.  Similarly, I think the Teacher Pension Shift will happen, but we will have a lot of measures put in place to make this as painless of a transition as possible.  Where those two matters overlap is the extinguishment of deductions for "high income earners" and the County receipts increasing to off-set the new liability.

There is a very interesting saga in Anne Arundel County.  After one of the County Council members was sent to prison for tax evasion, the remainder chose (rightfully) to remove him from the Council.  They are now tasked with finding a replacement.  "They" being a panel of white men.  After vetting the applicants down to two individuals, the Council must now choose between "former state Sen. Michael J. Wagner of Ferndale, who is white, and Peter I. Smith, a Marine reservist from Severn who is black."  Along the way, at least two on the Council have made some unfortunate comments including a racial slur for African Americans and a poorly worded dismissal of "diversity" as an aspiration for a public body.  Yet again, Howard County is made to look even more boring.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Sarah encourages us all to become educated about the names featured on the 2012 ballot(s) before the April Primary and provides some resources for doing so.

That's all for today.  I got a little caught up in the fire tax stuff and short-changed the links.  Sorry, links.

Have a great Monday doing what you love!