Letter: Harford take on legislative session


The 2012 Session of the Maryland General Assembly came to a strange close Monday night. Ongoing disagreements and dysfunction among the House and Senate leadership produced a stalemate regarding three legislative bills.

Although the House and Senate passed an Operating Budget, the accompanying revenue bills were not agreed to with a pending gaming bill in the mix. This dysfunction provided a short reprieve for Maryland taxpayers and Maryland counties. The tax revenue bill on the floor of both houses would have increased personal income taxes for families making over $100,000.

In addition to taxpayers, Maryland counties will also benefit from the failure of the House to enact a pension shift on Maryland counties. The final proposal on the floor of both Houses would have shifted 50 percent of the normal cost pensions within the first year with the reaming phased in over the next three years. For Harford County this would have meant a $5.5 million cost in FY 2013, escalating to approximately $10 million in 2016.

These victories will be short lived, however, as we expect the Governor and the legislative leaders to call yet another special session for increased taxes and a proposed gaming bill forPrince George's County.  I'm afraid the prospect of a special session on taxes will also include a gas tax and other taxes that were under consideration this session.

Bad legislation passed

There still was time for the legislature to pass additional, bad legislation which includes doubling of the flush tax, a new stormwater management tax forced on local counties and a [school] maintenance of effort bill which for the first time will allow the Comptroller to redirect  local revenues directly to boards of education if the county fails to maintain a proper maintenance of effort education funding.

In the final hours of session the Governor's septic bill passed which will require counties to establish separate tiers for planning uses. In tier four, for Harford County areas zoned for one development right per ten acres, this decrease will mean a reduction of development rights in Northern Harford County of 30 to 40 percent. This means that Harford County residents in the northern tier of the County will have a forced downzoning by the State of Maryland. This will mean reduced property values along with reduced capital borrowing ability for our farmers. It also places in jeopardy Harford County's award winning land preservation program.

Positive developments

On a positive note, I was able to pass legislation which will create a new farm brew license for Maryland farms to utilize their crops for the creation of craft beer. The bill will provide Maryland farms the ability to use winter barley, wheat crops and Maryland hops to allow farm breweries to mirror our local wineries.  The new craft beer market has progressed quickly in the Northeast and this will give our local agriculture marketing program a boost to allow Harford County farmers to add another local product to their menu.

Also on the higher education front, we were successful in pushing Towson's 2+2 Program in partnership with Harford Community College. This will provide a great opportunity for local students to attend Harford Community College and complete their degree at a Towson building right on our campus. I also supported efforts to bring higher education research to our area by supporting a Northeast Regional Education Advisory Board to begin plans for a research park, additional small business, and research and development job creation right here in Harford County. 

As we continue to digest all of the legislation that passed in the final hours of the session a few things remain clear with the dysfunction in Annapolis. It is now clearer than ever that Annapolis is moving ahead with plans to run Maryland counties from the state capital. The budget continues to exhibit the characteristics that the State of Maryland does not have a revenue problem but has a spending problem. I continue to resist efforts to raise the personal income tax, gas tax and any efforts to reduce mortgage interest deductions. As the economy barely begins to recover, I think it's the worst time to impose additional tax and fee burdens on working families in Harford County.

I want to take a moment to thank all of you for sharing your views and staying in touch with me during the past session. I appreciate your support as I stand up for Harford County's traditional rural values.  My office staff always stands ready to assist you in any way we can. Follow me on Facebook or my website and keep the faith as we continue to fight to build a better future for Harford County and the State of Maryland. I can always be reached at 1-800-492-7122 and on the web at http://www.barryglassman.com. 

Sen. Barry Glassman

District 35, Northern Harford



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