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GOP's George says he fought 300 proposed tax increases

Republican Ron George releases the first commercial in his campaign for governor, an introductory spot that also chronicles his opposition to tax increases.

What the ad says: George a two-term state delegate from Anne Arundel County, is shown with family members and at a jewelry store he owns in Annapolis. In one frame, he is with former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who is raising an arm and smiling, though Ehrlich has not endorsed anyone in the race for governor. "He did not aspire to be in government, but when his community called, he stepped up to the plate," a voice-over says. "Ron successfully helped pass tax cuts, fought over 300 proposed tax increases and exposed waste by a government that puts itself first."

The facts: Taxes have long been an issue for George, who prides himself on being business-friendly. His campaign proposals, not mentioned in the short ad, include lowering the corporate income tax rate. If the ad's figure of 300 tax increase plans sounds high, that's because George included not only actual increases but proposed increases, many contained in bills that came before the House Ways and Means Committee of which he is a member. The number of actual tax increases is much lower. George said in an interview that his total is not confined to proposals originating in the governor's office. "I just meant in the O'Malley-Brown years," George said. "These were from legislators, too."

Besides tax increases, he said, "there are fees [included] that one would consider actual taxes. Tolls also would be considered in that."

An analysis by the nonpartisan state Department of Legislative Services found 50 measures from 2007 through the 2013 session that raised revenues significantly. The measures included rises in various taxes, fees and assessments.

A document compiled by the House Republican Caucus listed 74 examples of what it called "O'Malley's taxes, tolls and fees."

The list is highlighted by the tax increases of 2007, the year O'Malley called a special session to close a projected deficit of $1.5 billion for fiscal 2009.

Analysis: It is popular among the Republican gubernatorial contenders — George, Harford County Executive David R. Craig, former Ehrlich administration official Larry Hogan and Charles County business executive Charles Lollar — to criticize O'Malley-Brown tax increases. Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, a Democratic candidate for governor, has also accused the administration of raising middle-class taxes and "squeezing families."

George is trying to distinguish himself by demonstrating that he not only opposed tax increases, but actively fought them in Annapolis. As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, he had a platform that others in the GOP field did not.

George likes to highlight two particular battles. In 2013, he successfully sponsored a measure to cap the excise tax for boat sales at $15,000. The legislation was aimed at persuading yacht owners to keep expensive boats in Maryland.

In 2008, he sponsored legislation that repealed an unpopular sales tax on computer services. The tax was replaced by the Democratic-controlled legislature with a combination of cuts and a three-year individual income tax surcharge on earnings of more than $1 million.

Jeff Barker

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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