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Md. House Republicans propose tax cuts as part of 2019 initiatives

Del. Kathy Szeliga, R-Baltimore and Harford counties, voiced concern that mentally ill patients could be steered toward suicide rather than helped under the bill. “Who would keep a patient from doctor shopping” until he or she finds someone to prescribe a lethal dose? asked Szeliga, a member of the HGO committee. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

Del. Kathy Szeliga, R-Baltimore and Harford counties and House minority whip, says it’s time for broad-based tax relief for Marylanders. (File Photo/Maximilian Franz)

ANNAPOLIS — House Republicans Friday said they will propose an across-the-board income tax reduction as part of a package of initiatives for the 2019 session.

The proposals also touch on school safety, a violent criminal registry and legislative redistricting reform.  The announcement represents the first such initiatives by the minority party in the House since Gov. Larry Hogan was elected to a first term in 2014.

None of the bills announced Friday were available to reporters. The $400 million proposed reduction comes at a time when lawmakers will also be asked to find ways to pay for billions of dollars in increased education spending.

“We think it’s time for tax relief,” said Del. Kathy Szeliga, R-Baltimore and Harford counties and House minority whip. “We’re glad that Governor Hogan has proposed a balanced budget and has worked on reducing some tolls and some taxes, but we think it’s time for everybody to see tax relief.”

“Keep it simple,” said Szeliga. “Everybody gets to see a tax cut who has income.”

The cut, equal to one-quarter of a percent, would be offset by increased revenues realized by the state after a 2017 change to federal tax law. That change resulted in an overall decrease in the combined federal-state tax burden for most state residents even as the state share increased.

“We know that the windfall is estimated to be far more than ($400 million),” Szeliga told reporters. “It’s definitely doable.”

The last reduction in Maryland income taxes — 10 percent phased in over five years — came under Democratic Gov. Parris Glendening. The cut was phased in just before lawmakers in 2002 passed the historic $1.3 billion education spending plan referred to as Thornton.

The increased spending and reduction in taxes are pointed to by Democrats and Republicans as leading factors behind structural deficits that exceeded $1 billion in the years that followed.

Next year, the General Assembly will have to sort out how to fund a new plan for education that will increase spending by at least $3.8 billion annually — three times the size of Thornton — once it is phased in over a decade.

Szeliga said the tax cut proposal and any proposal to increase education spending “are not related.”

‘We always find money for priorities and things that are important,” said Szeliga. “We feel this is important.”

Also included in the package of House Republican initiatives are:

  • A state registry for offenders convicted of murder or offenders with two violent crime convictions, that would last for 10 years following the completion of their jail term. The registry would be similar to the one now required of sex offenders, and it would be modeled after similar registries in Virginia, Illinois, and Ohio, according to sponsors.
  • A bill that allows counties and school systems to hire armed special police officer  to work at schools in response to school shootings in Maryland and across the country.

A final bill would amend the Maryland constitution and require that all members of the House of Delegates be elected in single-member districts. Those districts would be subsets of the 47 larger Senate districts.

Del. Jason Buckel, R-Allegany, called the use of single-member districts in some areas of the state as a means of protecting seats “blatantly political and unfair.”

“One element of the plainly unfair, rigged system that we sometimes have in Maryland that disenfranchises our citizens and our voters is the partisan drawing of unequal, non-uniform House districts,” said Buckel.


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