"I was persuaded the cap's incentive for people to buy and remain in the city outweighs the disparity, the differences," he said.

After details of his now-abandoned overhaul idea were published in The Sun in December, Rosenberg said he began hearing concerns about the proposal from "homeowners in the city and people involved in trying to get people back to the city."

He said he also met with the mayor's staff, who described the city's efforts to crack down on tax credit abuse under a "billing integrity" program launched last year.

Robert E. Young, director of the state Department of Assessments and Taxation, said an income requirement would have substantially increased the workload for his agency, which administers property tax credits statewide. He estimated when Rosenberg proposed the idea that he might need 50 additional employees.

"That would have been a massive effort," Young said Friday. He said it would have posed "significant administrative difficulties" for his staff to process applications in a timely manner, something he communicated to Rosenberg.

On the other hand, Young has said tying the homestead credit to income could resolve long-standing questions about its legality. The state attorney general's office has consistently said the current structure of the homestead program violates the state constitution, which promises "uniform" taxation.

Young believes a new application requirement for the homestead will slash the number of invalid credits. Homeowners have until the end of the year to apply or they won't receive the credit in the 2013-2014 tax year. The assessments agency is planning a campaign this spring to publicize the deadline.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jamie Smith Hopkins contributed to this article.

scott.calvert@baltsun.com

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