In a sparsely-attended warm-up to a larger opposition rally scheduled at 4 p.m., a motley crew of speakers gathered for reporters just a few steps from the State House to denounce Gov. Martin O'Malley's tax proposals.
"Why can't our governor and his gang of spenders cut taxes instead of raising them?" said Dee Hughes, president of the Maryland Taxpayers Association. "The only thing I can think of is the grab for power. They think they are in a gold rush, but the gold isn't in the ground, it is in our wallets."
O'Malley has proposed overhauling the income tax structure to lessen the burden on lower- and middle-income Marylanders and to tax top earners much more; raising the corporate income tax rate from 7 percent to 8 percent; and increasing the sales tax rate from 5 percent to 6 percent. He would also cut the property tax by 3 cents per $100 in assessed value and double the cigarette tax to $2 a pack.
Flanked by a handful of supporters holding anti-tax signs, including one bearing a picture of a baby named Elijah begging that legislators not "TAX ME OUT" of the state, pastors, small business owners, anti-tax and anti-slots advocates railed against the slate of tax increases that were introduced to close a projected $1.7 billion budget deficit.
"Many of these legislators, and I've talked to them, don't want this," said Ray Kenney, owner of Pasadena Furniture, who said the proposed increase would hurt retail businesses already under siege from internet giants like Amazon.com.
Pastor Rick Bowers, who serves on the board of the Community Action Council of Howard County, accused O'Malley of setting voters up for a massive surplus that could give way to an election-year tax cut, an idea he attributed to Maryland's last democratic governor, Paris Glendening.
"That's exactly what he did, and it worked," Bowers said. "They've done it once, and they were successful. I believe they want to do it again."
The press conference was organized by the Maryland Taxpayers Association and SmartGov.net, a state PAC.
A spokeswoman for O'Malley declined to respond directly to the statements.
"The governor respects everyone's opinion," said Christine Hansen. "He's proposed a fair and comprehensive solution to the state's structural deficit and most Marylanders will pay less under his plan."