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Taxes, business climate, property rights issues for District 42B delegate candidates

Maryland General Assembly's Legislative District 42B is a challenge. Thanks to the 2012 redistricting, it is not only double the land mass of the former District 42 but encompasses a diverse population, from suburban homeowners to farmers.

Four candidates are running for two state delegate seats in District 42B. They are incumbent Susan Aumann, Republican; Chris West, Republican; Robert Leonard, Democrat; and Craig J. Little, Democrat.

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District 42B starts in Parkville around the Joppa Road/Harford Road junction, then stretches to the Pennsylvania line and the Carroll County border. It includes the Loch Raven Reservoir, Prettyboy Dam and most of North Baltimore County.

"The northern half is intensely rural, the southern half intensely suburban," said Chris West, 64, an attorney, married with a child, a Ruxton resident. He is running for political office for the first time although he has long been active in the Republican Party.

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Like the candidates in the District 42A delegate race, West identifies key issues in District 42B that are both statewide and local. On the statewide level, he talks about taxes and the business climate.

"People are unhappy about tax increases," he said of increases over the past eight years under Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration, "and especially the rain tax."

The General Assembly's "rain tax," to be used for stormwater management, went into effect on July 1, 2013. But the tax doesn't apply to all counties and the fee isn't applied uniformly either, West said. Moreover, stormwater management is a normal function of government, and shouldn't require a separate tax.

"The tax was imposed at different rates and on different people. In Baltimore County, it's $49 per household. For commercial buildings and churches, it is based on impervious surfaces like parking lots, and can amount to thousands of dollars," said West, who urges repeal of the rain tax.

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On the business climate, West proposes to reduce all personal income tax by 10 percent over three years. The reason: most businesses in the district are created as LLCs, limited liability companies. "They do not pay corporate taxes but they are taxed on personal income," he said.

West isn't the only candidate to talk about the business climate. Aumann said that one of the key issues in the district is jobs. Aumann, who is running for her fourth term as a state delegate, wants to create a business environment that provides job opportunities.

"Not only in the state but locally as well, and not only for people who live here but for people outside the state, to relocate here," said Aumann, 54, of Timonium, who is married and a mother.

Likewise, Leonard, 32, an attorney and adjunct faculty member at Community College of Baltimore County, married and a Timonium resident, talked about taxes as a problem.

"The main issue in the district is that people pay taxes for one purpose and then see it go for another purpose. Program Open Space is funded by taxes but it gets raided for other purposes," said Leonard, who is running for political office for the first time. "People are upset about the rain tax. They don't know how the money will be spent."

Leonard also wants more fiscal responsibility among legislators. Almost every bill that comes before the General Assembly has a fiscal note attached, spelling out the cost and consequences of the proposed legislation.

"I don't believe enough legislators read the fiscal note and realize the impact of each bill they vote on," he said of a way to get spending under control. "Even if it's a good idea, it can be paid for in a cost-effective way."

Another key issue is the environment, according to Leonard. He would encourage the state to increase its renewable energy portfolio, currently set at 20 percent of the state's electricity to come from renewable sources by 2022.

"We can do a better job of making that a priority, and create jobs in the alternative energy community," he said.

On the local level, Aumann said that a key issue is property rights. A lot of farmers live in District 42B and they want diversification, she noted. That means the ability to have different kinds of events on their property, providing another source of income.

A Baltimore County Council bill to allow that failed but it might be resurrected. "Farmers are prevented from having events because of permitting but they want to have that opportunity by right," she said.

Aumann, Leonard and West all point to the public schools as a key local issue.

"The reason we bought our house is because we are in a good school district. I want to make sure future children have strong schools," said Leonard.

Aumann says the immediate hot button issue in District 42B is the preservation of the four-class schedule at Hereford High School, which means four courses per semester in longer class times. Other Baltimore County Public Schools have an eight-class schedule, and the school system appears to be moving toward a unified schedule for all schools.

Aumann supports Hereford parents' efforts to keep the four-class schedule. "It has worked out well" for the district, said Aumann. "It allows students flexibility if they need to work in the afternoon. This is an area with farms and they need to work during harvest time."

West also supports Hereford's four-class schedule. "The school is rated in the top 2 percent nationally, and parents are convinced it's because of the schedule," he said.

Candidate Little did not respond to repeated telephone and email requests. On his website, thinkbigvotelittle.com, Little, who identifies himself as an attorney and small-business owner, states his positions on a number of issues.

Among them is the right to a comprehensive educational experience for all children, and for schools and teachers to have adequate resources; strict gun control; and the legalization of marijuana. Little also pledges to work with businesses with the goal of creating more jobs and more opportunities for entrepreneurship.

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