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Letters: On Maryland tax reform; correcting misconceptions about county fire services

‘Inadvertent’ state tax increases show need for reform

The new federal tax reduction law cost my wife and me about $750 more in 2018 Maryland taxes than if we could have itemized. I'm sure similar increases hit many others as well.

In Maryland we have to use the same standard or itemized deduction method for state tax calculation as we used for federal tax. This can have a bad effect on folks like us whose itemized deductions are now less than the greatly increased federal standard deduction, yet who can't use them to compute Maryland tax. It is more advantageous for many to use the standard deduction on the federal tax form though that results in a higher tax to the state.

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Maryland is one of only 10 states that require state taxes to be computed using the same deduction method as on the federal. As a result of the federal tax law change, some tax reforms were made by Maryland during the past two sessions — Gov. Hogan wanted more, but there seems to be a legislative reluctance to go further because additional tax reforms will cut too much into the increased state and local Maryland tax income.

All of the three District 5 delegates had previously cited tax relief as a top priority in a campaign questionnaire submitted to the Carroll County Times last year. “[I] will continue to work with Gov. Hogan to ensure that Maryland taxpayers are protected from potential State and local tax increases inadvertently resulting from the Federal Tax Overhaul,” Del. Susan Krebs wrote at that time.

Krebs tried by introducing HB 450 in February but it died in committee. That bill would have allowed an individual to itemize deductions for state income tax purposes without regard to whether or not the individual itemizes for federal income tax purposes, but wouldn't begin until tax year 2020. Based on an analysis for that bill done for the General Assembly, it would have affected about 23% of Maryland taxpayers and cut state and local taxes by almost $200 million.

Del. William Wivell of Washington County submitted a similar bill and it also got nowhere. It seems like a majority of our state legislators are happy to accept the inadvertent Maryland tax increase and public pressure is needed if we want to get a change next year.

David Libershal

Taneytown

Correcting letter-writer’s mistakes about county fire services

In response to a letter to the editor of May 17, ‘Proposed county budget contains several red flags,” the Carroll County Volunteer Emergency Services Association (CCVESA) would like to correct some of the information contained in that letter.

First, the proposal to provide for a “new county paid fire chief and administrative assistant” is not completely correct. The hiring of a chief and administrative assistant to begin to formulate and coordinate a combination volunteer/career fire and rescue system was requested by CCVESA. This was not a “power grab” by the county commissioners, but a request for help by CCVESA. Why? Our available volunteer numbers are dwindling each year in Carroll County and across the nation. Many prospective recruits cannot afford the necessary time to complete the hundreds of hours of training needed just to reach the minimum requirements to be able to ride the fire service equipment required to provide service to the community. Then, we tack on hours spent fundraising in order to purchase facilities and equipment. It has become hard for a family to find these spare hours. The county commissioners have never said they want to “transition away from our volunteer fire departments.” It would not make any sense from a taxpayer’s perspective to do this. What CCVESA and county government are trying to do is create the best service possible by better utilizing manpower and dollars, dollars to include both volunteer fire deparment-raised money and county government-provided funds.

Carroll County’s delegation in Annapolis is aware of this transition. the delegation has supported CCVESA and county government to pass enabling legislation in order to allow the county commissioners to assume responsibility for fire, rescue and emergency medical services. That legislation became law in October 2018. CCVESA and county government are working hand in hand to make sure an Emergency Services Advisory Council is created and will oversee the newly created combination department of fire and rescue services. The formation of the ESAC is required per the new legislation.

The fire rescue system in Carroll County is not broken, but it is deteriorating. Hopefully we can prevent it from breaking by instituting action now and slowly, methodically working into a combination volunteer/career department of fire rescue services with county government taking a hand in providing and controlling aspects of the system. We ask that citizens continue to support your local fire company and work with us to make our system more effective and efficient in providing the highest level of service possible.

Dennis Brothers

CCVESA first vice president

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