By Michael Dresser and Erin Cox, The Baltimore Sun
7:18 PM EST, November 11, 2013
Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony G. Brown marked Veterans Day on Monday by releasing a five-part plan for former members of the armed forces, including a tax break and help with employment and housing.
Brown, the lieutenant governor and a colonel in the Army Reserve, issued what he called his "Compact with Maryland Veterans" Monday with little fanfare on a day when he avoided scheduling campaign appearances and instead attended ceremonial functions in his official capacity.
As part of the plan, Brown and his running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, joined fellow candidates in promising a tax cut — though on a relatively modest scale, and targeted at veterans.
Brown, a judge advocate general who served in Iraq, proposed eliminating state income taxes on military pensions up to $150,000 a year, phased in over eight years. His campaign estimated the cost as of July 2018 at $17.5 million annually.
With the proposal, the lieutenant governor joins his Democratic rivals in calling for tax cuts if elected, though Brown's suggestion for cuts does not go nearly as far as policies proposed by others vying for the nomination.
Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has proposed a reduction in the corporate income tax. Del. Heather Mizeur of Montgomery County has recommended state income tax cuts for about 90 percent of Maryland taxpayers — offset by increases for those earning more than $500,000.
The three announced Republican candidates — Harford County Executive David R. Craig, Del. Ron George of Anne Arundel County and Charles County business executive Charles Lollar — have called for reductions in a variety of taxes and fees.
Brown proposed that the state step up its efforts to help veterans find jobs and to provide bridge loans to those whose disability claims are caught up in the Veterans Administration processing backlog.
He also called for the creation of a Veterans Treatment Court to help veterans who get in trouble with the law to receive treatment for addiction and mental health problems and to avoid jail.
Brown said he also would expand the state's Rental Housing Works program and devote at least 20 percent of its funding to veterans.
The Brown campaign estimated the total cost of the tax exemption and new programs at $24.2 million by the end of his first term. Fifty thousand Marylanders draw military pensions.
The state already exempts Social Security payments and up to $5,000 a year in military retirement pay from taxes.
Gansler said Monday that he supports waiving taxes on veterans' retirement income and extending that tax break to teachers and first responders.
"As a starting point, we should not tax the retirement income of our heroes," Gansler said. He said he supports broadening the proposed program over time "so that people don't feel like they need to leave the state to retire."
In a statement, Gansler and his running mate, Del. Jolene Ivey of Prince George's County, blamed Brown for the long processing times at the federal Department of Veterans Affairs regional office in Baltimore.
"The lieutenant governor has not fixed that problem," spokesman Bob Wheelock said. "The Gansler-Ivey team will."
While Brown put forward his statewide plan, Ulman made a gesture of his own toward veterans in his county. He announced a plan to team up with a group that provides therapeutic services to military personnel and veterans to make it easier to reach one of Howard County's better fly-fishing spots.
Ulman said the county would build a trail and fishing platform along the Patuxent River next to Haviland Mill Park in Clarksville. It is to be designed in partnership with Trout Unlimited and Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, an organization that runs a recreational program for wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
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