Luedtke Proposes Backdoor Tax Hike
The Maryland Association of Counties is reporting that House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke has suggested that local taxation authority for education be considered:
As MACo’s presentation on county priorities wrapped, Committee members asked various questions. Arguably the most intriguing, prefaced by claiming it would be “a hard question for you,” came from Delegate Eric Luedtke – the House Majority Leader, Ways and Means Taxation Subcommittee Chair, former member of the Kirwan Commission, and former teacher. He asked:
“We’ve been hearing a lot of concern from the counties, as you might suspect, on the proposals in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future… and how to ensure that counties are treated as partners… and the general gist I’ve heard overall is that counties are feeling fiscally constrained, that they’ve got a lot of different demands on their county budgets… public safety, schools, community colleges, et cetera. Given that, and that pressure is not likely to ease anytime soon…
Why not consider putting Maryland in the same stance as the majority of states, and I think 90 per cent of school districts in the country, where you have fiscally independent school districts that can raise their own revenue?”
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Luedtke’s proposal is similar to ones already in place in many counties and localities across the country. For example, in both Pennsylvania and Ohio, local school systems exist, composed of a high school and its lower schools. Those school systems have elected boards of education and their own taxation authority to raise revenue.
Maryland currently has a system that sees the state and counties pay for education. As we have mentioned previously, Maryland has a constitutional responsibility to provide for free public education so that requirement won’t be changing anytime soon.
You can probably already see where this is going.
If you follow Luedtke’s plan to its logical conclusion, it would mean that the General Assembly would pass legislation that would enable local school districts to have taxation authority. If you assume that these local authorities would be given to county school districts, that means that locally elected boards of education (where they exist) would be given the authority to raise taxes independent of already existing county and state taxes. So instead of having two different levels of taxation (state and county) you’d have three (state, county, and school). And since the local school districts would be created by the state, they would not have the revenue or tax caps put into place in many county governments across the state regarding tax rates or revenue increases.
So yes, what Eric Luedtke is proposing here is a backdoor tax hike through the creation of another independent taxation authority. Granted, Luedtke brainstorming an idea at a MACo Local Government Day is not the same as a concrete legislative proposal. But in an environment where Democrats seem intent on raising taxes without doing so broadly and at a time when they are seeking to fund the Kirwan Commission recommendations, the fact that the House Majority Leader is proposing such an idea in public says that this idea is at least under some consideration. Taxpayers should be ready to say no.