Room tax is back on table

Hope springs eternal when it comes to baseball and a room tax for Harford County, which is being pushed once again by tourism representatives, and especially the City of Aberdeen, as the Maryland General Assembly launched its legislative session for the year.

Aberdeen council members Ruth Ann Young and Bruce Garner were wearing buttons supporting tourism at Monday's city council meeting, where the elected officials re-committed themselves to fighting for the tax.

Today (Friday) was also set to be "Tourism Day" in Annapolis, with county tourism officials planning to make their voices heard in the state capital on the tax.

Young said she was in Annapolis on Jan. 25 for "Harford County Night" and talked with Harford Del. Susan McComas, Sen. Barry Glassman and Sen. Nancy Jacobs regarding "our pet project" on tourism.

"You'll notice Bruce Garner and I are wearing our buttons regarding that," Young said. "These are just the beginning steps of working on that particular project."

The tax on hotel and motel rooms died last year after it was tied to a plan to offer property tax forgiveness for Presbyterian Home of Maryland's Village at Carsins Run development in Aberdeen.

Garner urged everyone to again contact "all the delegates, not just ours" to let them know how important the tax is to Harford residents.

Garner said when he was in Annapolis the prior week, many representatives still seemed doubtful.

"The story is, 'You probably won't get it this year, but you'll get it in a couple years. But you're going to get it.' What's wrong with this year?" he asked. "When all the stars were aligned, we should have had it."

Garner said the tax would be positive countywide.

"It's not just Aberdeen, it's Havre de Grace, it's Darlington, it's the western part of the county," he said. "It's so much that falls under this."

"Delegates tell us they don't hear enough from our constituents," he continued. "There's an election coming up, and put that in the back of their minds...They are put in office by the people, by their views, not their personal views and their personal feelings."

Mayor Mike Bennett agreed, noting other local officials who met with state officials in Annapolis included Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty and Bel Air Town Commissioner Eddie Hopkins.

Bennett also said people should send e-mails to their elected officials in Annapolis.

"They look at e-mails from their constituents," he said.

Government officials from Harford County and the municipalities met in December with several community and business leaders to map out a strategy for getting the room tax passed this year.

Harford County Executive David Craig, however, told members of The Aegis editorial staff that the enabling legislation would be a hard sell in Annapolis, which is why he doesn't believe Harford County will be able to implement the tax.

He predicted at least two of the county's three state senators, Glassman and Jacobs, would not support any tax legislation because of their future political aspirations. Glassman is expected to run for county executive to succeed Craig in 2014, while Jacobs is running for Congress.

Aegis Editor Allan Vought contributed to this article.

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