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Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.

Miller: No massive tax rollbacks expected

ANNAPOLIS — Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said Tuesday that a massive retrenchment of taxes or government isn’t likely despite the pending inauguration of a Republican governor who campaigned on the issue.

Miller, speaking to reporters from his office, said that the legislature under Gov. Martin O’Malley was forced to increase taxes “during the worst recession since The Great Depression” in an effort to safeguard the state’s standard of living. He said the focus on education, health care and public safety was necessary and what state residents expected.

“How do you go back?” Miller said. “We’re not going to go backwards.”

The Senate president said he is optimistic that there will be a good working relationship between Republican Gov.-elect Larry Hogan and the General Assembly. Both men have known each other for years and hail from the same county. Miller urged Hogan to call on current and former legislators who understand the budget “and how government works.”

Miller said he expects the incoming session to be busy despite 69 new members of the House of Delegates and Senate.

“We don’t have the time for training new members of the General Assembly and help this new administration in learning the fundamentals of government,” Miller said.

Miller said he does expect there to be a change in the controversial stormwater management fee, which opponents including Hogan call the rain tax, but that he does not expect there will be a complete elimination of the tax.

“I don’t believe it will be eliminated,” Miller said.

The longest-serving state Senate president in the country said changes to the two-year old fee, which is mandated by the federal government as part of an effort to reduce run-off pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, will likely allow local jurisdictions affected by the law to pay for the costs of the program from their own budgets rather than impose a fee.

Miller said he believes that the rejection of Democrats, including the party’s gubernatorial nominee, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, was driven by voter disgust over Washington politics and the fact that middle-class wages in Maryland did not keep pace with what he called “the 1 percent” of wealthy residents. He rejected the idea that the 2014 election in Maryland was driven entirely by an anti-tax sentiment.

“Taxes have been the bane of elected officials since the beginning of time,” Miller said.