Despite a full three months to do the people’s business many decisions are not made until the final week. The annual 2015 Maryland legislative session ends on “Sine Die” Monday, April 13th, and the House and the Senate are still considering most of the legislation sent over on crossover (March 23rd) from the opposing house.
Budget & Taxes
The most important single bill still being debated is the state budget (HB 70) with its companion bills the capital budget (HB 71) and the BRFA, the budget reconciliation and financing act (HB 72) Governor Hogan’s budget priorities have survived largely intact, but were passed in slightly different forms from both houses. A conference committee has been appointed to prepare a final version for approval by the House and Senate.
To add to the excitement, Governor Hogan just released his Supplemental Budget #2 which will also be reviewed by the budget conferees. In the supplemental the Governor has attempted to put into law through the budget process some of his initiatives that so far have been blocked by the legislature, including $12M in income tax relief for retired military and $7M for personal property tax relief for small businesses. Stay tuned in for a showdown on these issues.
While the democrat leadership continues to stall tax relief measures, here is a list of new and/or increased taxes proposed this year that thankfully are already dead for 2015:
Chicken Tax – $15 million annual tax on poultry farmers (HB 886)
Death Tax – eliminating the death tax repeal we passed last year (HB 730)
Bottle Tax – 5 cent tax on every bottle – can be redeemed if you return bottle (HB 982)
Bag tax – bans plastic bags and put a 10 cent tax on paper bags (HB 551)
Tobacco Tax – a $90 million annual tax increase on tobacco products (HB 108)
Tax on Utility Bills – ramps up to $566 million annual tax
Business Climate Bills
Three bills aimed at improving Maryland’s business climate passed the Maryland Senate on Tuesday with bipartisan support.
One would create an advisory council to review proposed regulations for possible adverse effects on small business, passing 42-5. Two others — one to establish an ombudsman’s office to improve agencies’ treatment of customers and another to launch a task force to study university ethics rules to make it easier to move technology from labs to commercialization — were approved unanimously.
All three bills have been approved by the House but were amended in the Senate and now return to the House. Final passage is expected.
Lawmakers Head Into Final Week With Budget, ‘Rain Tax,’ Tax Relief On Agenda Budget, ‘rain tax,’ retirement tax relief and charter schools remain on agenda
By Chase Cook, Capital Gazette
Maryland lawmakers are returning from the holiday weekend with only seven days left in the 2015 General Assembly session with Gov. Larry Hogan’s tax relief legislation and the state budget still on the agenda.
Legislators are going to push for a final budget decision this week in what should be a lively debate after the governor released a supplemental budget that didn’t restore education funding. It also didn’t restore the 2 percent cost-of-living raise that state employees were given in January.
The House passed its version of the budget 129-10, with both Democrats and Republicans praising the compromise that restored both the missing education money and the raise.
The Senate, with minor changes from the House’s budget, passed its version of the operating budget as well, but unanimously. The two chambers have put together a conference committee to hash out the differences.
Without the restored local aid to education funding, Anne Arundel County Public Schools is facing about $9.6 million in missing expected revenues, money school officials have said they need to keep up with rising costs and increased enrollment.
House Minority Leader Nic Kipke, R-Pasadena, said he didn’t anticipate any major roadblocks as both parties and the governor negotiate the budget.
“Neither party is getting everything they want, but having a Republican governor is creating balance,” Kipke said. “He’s willing to work with the Democrats who have control of the legislature, which is definitely achieving positive results for taxpayers.”
Some of the issues Hogan’s supplemental budget did tackle was moving money around for his tax relief legislation that has stalled in the General Assembly. The governor allocated money for about $12.6 million in income tax relief for retired military, first responders and personal property tax relief for small businesses.
The supplemental budget also proposed $8 million to expand the Maryland State Police force and $2 million for heroin addiction treatment services.
“I’d like to acknowledge the hard work of the Senate and the House on this budget,” Hogan said in a statement on the supplemental budget. “The items in this supplemental budget provide the necessary funding for education, public safety, heroin addiction and tax relief measures that the people of Maryland deserve. We still have much more to do, but as we draw closer to the end of the legislative session, I look forward to working with the conference committee to reach a final budget that addresses the concerns of all hardworking Marylanders.”
Those tax breaks have not gotten a lot of traction so far in the 90-day session, which ends April 13. In the Senate, the first responders’ tax break was turned down and the military exemption was pared down. The Senate deferred the small business tax relief for the taxable year after December 2016.
When asked about tackling some of the issues mentioned in Hogan’s supplemental budget, House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Annapolis, said debate and possibly votes on the Stormwater Remediation Fee, or “rain tax,” the military retirement tax and charter school legislation are all likely before the end of session.
He said lawmakers are right where they usually are at this time of year, as they grind out the last week to move their personal legislation and finish up big issues.
And he was hopeful the governor would come around on restoring education cuts.
“I think that’s an issue he has to think about carefully,” Busch said. “This is about a bipartisan budget that came out and whether the governor wants to support those programs.”
Del. Herb McMillan, R-Annapolis, said he believed the governor’s supplemental budget was a message to the House to move his tax relief legislation if they want to restore education funding.
“If maybe the House starts moving on the legislation that he has addressed in the supplemental budget, he might be inclined to be more accepting [of the House’s changes],” McMillan said. “I’m not speaking for the governor. It strikes me as a rational compromise.”
Lawmakers are set to reconvene at the usual 8 p.m. Monday floor session time. Floor agendas for the Senate and House can be found on mgaleg.maryland.gov.