WASHINGTON — Tax relief. Marylanders made it clear they want it, and Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, made clear he intends to deliver.
In his State of the State speech Tuesday, he ripped into the stormwater management fees that opponents love to call “the rain tax,” telling the General Assembly, “Taxing struggling and already-taxed Marylanders for the rain that falls on the roofs of their homes was a mistake that needs to be corrected.”
The line got huge applause, but it left Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker puzzled.
“It’s a federal mandate,” Baker said of the legislation that requires mitigation of stormwater runoff.
But Sen. Michael Hough, who represents Frederick and part of Carroll County, is looking forward to seeing the measure repealed.
“For Frederick County, it’s going to be a $10 million mandate and they have no way to pay for it, and so we need to remove those mandates as soon as possible.”
Del. Kathy Afzali, who, like Hough, is a Republican and represents voters in Frederick County, said Hogan struck all the right notes.
“The governor gets it,” she said of his tax relief message.
Hogan is proposing removing taxes on the pensions of veterans and first responders. And eventually, he said, he’d like to do away with the income tax on all retirement income. Afzali says that’s a winner in her book:
“I get emails every day from constituents who say ‘Take me off your email list; I’m moving. I’m going to Pennsylvania, because they don’t tax my retirement income.’”
On education, Hogan said, “in our proposed budget we spend more money on education than ever before.”
The governor is pushing measures to create more charter schools and to give tax credits for anyone who makes voluntary contributions to private and parochial schools. But the Hogan budget takes a bite out of an education funding fomula worth $40 million to Prince George’s County — that’s the calculation from Baker, who said “we need … the state as a partnership … so if you’re cutting fees and taxes at the state level, just make sure you’re not passing them down to me at the local level.”
Hogan made repeated references to people fleeing the state because of high taxes and an anti-business climate. That infuriated Maryland Senate President Mike Miller, who said of Hogan’s criticisms, “This is a great state, and he’d better damn-sight learn it soon enough and start praising our state and stop condemning the wonderful people of our state.”
Miller predicted rough sledding for some of Hogan’s proposals, including repealing the automatic increases in the gas tax that are tied to inflation. Without them, Miller says, funding the roads and highway projects Hogan says he wants will be nearly impossible.
WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.