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Tomlinson: Normal Marylanders would pay dearly under sales tax proposal to fund Kirwan education plan

In “A Day in the Life,” the final track on The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, the Fab Four sing about the start of the day: “Woke up, fell out of bed; dragged a comb across my head; found my way downstairs and drank a cup ...” The next line in the song for the average Maryland family after Jan. 1, 2021, will be “and paid sales tax on everything I did for the rest of day.”

That is, if House Bill 1628 passes. The bill, sponsored by Del. Eric Luedtke, a Democrat representing Montgomery County, would expand Maryland’s sales tax to include almost all services in an attempt to raise $2.6 billion each year to pay for the overhaul of Maryland’s education system as recommended by the Kirwan Commission. At the present moment, Marylanders only pay a 6% sales tax, six cents on the dollar, on goods. Under Luedtke’s proposal, the tax rate will decrease to 5%, but will be expanded to cover almost all professional services.

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What impact will this tax hike have on a day in the life of the average family on a Saturday in bucolic Carroll County?

Dad starts off the morning by picking up Sebastian, the family dog, from the veterinarian (TAXED) and stops at the local barbershop to get a trim (TAXED). Meanwhile, young Gabriel is receiving a one-on-one football lesson to help him make the team this fall (TAXED). Mom is having a little “me” time by getting a mani-pedi (TAXED) and a massage (TAXED). Dad picks up his dry cleaning (TAXED) and gets a quick oil change (TAXED). Daughter Ruby gets a car wash (TAXED) before heading over to her piano lesson (TAXED). On his way home, Dad drops off his tax paperwork to H&R Block (TAXED). After a long day, the entire family shares a pizza that was delivered (TAXED).

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Luedtke’s assertion that an average family making $80,000 a year would only pay about $3 more in taxes each week if his bill becomes law is downright dishonest.

“Let there be no mistake or misunderstanding, this is a 52% tax increase upon the citizens of the State of Maryland,” said House Minority Leader Del. Nic Kipke, an Anne Arundel County Republican. “Our State already holds the designation as one of the highest-taxed states in the country. This bill will have a chilling effect on our economy that has blossomed under Governor [Larry] Hogan."

At the beginning of this year’s legislative session, Democratic leadership repeatedly stressed that the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission — or the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education — would not result in tax increases and that Republicans were simply using scare tactics to stop education reform. By late February, the Democrats had broken that promise.

But let not your heart be troubled — Luedtke has already made it clear that technically he did not break that pledge because he is trying to lower the tax rate. His bill would lower the sales tax rate 1%, but it will end up costing taxpayers an additional estimated $2.6 billion annually. I guess this is what Democrats consider “cutting” your taxes.

Everybody should be relieved to learn that this tax expansion includes several exemptions. The bill makes it clear that the sales tax expansion will not include “a service provided by a business, professional, labor, or political association.” In other words, labor unions and lobbying groups are exempt — how convenient!

House Minority Whip Del. Kathy Szeliga recently told me, “This is the largest tax increase in Maryland’s history, even surpassing the tax increases of the O’Malley-Brown era, which is no small feat.” Szeliga, a Republican from Baltimore and Harford counties, also pointed out many Maryland citizens believe they already pay too much in taxes, a claim supported by a Goucher College poll in which 51% percent of respondents said their taxes are “too high.” In fact, this ongoing tax increase could eventually total more than all of former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s 40 tax hikes combined.

This tax increase will also put a new burden on the shoulders of Maryland business owners, both big and small. If this bill passes, business owners who previously never had to worry about adding on a tax to their services will now have to collect and report sales taxes. For most small businesses, this will result in higher operating costs and the need to hire accountants and other professionals.

The reality is that this tax is a regressive one that will disproportionately impact the middle class and the poor. If Luedtke gets his way, Marylanders will be paying a sales tax on lawn care, legal services, daycare, funeral services, wedding-related services, and services related to home buying, such as those provided by a real estate agent, title company, mortgage company, etc.

The final lyric of “A Day in the Life” says, “Come on, what are you up to?” We know what Luedtke and his fellow Democrats are up to in Annapolis; they are busy pickpocketing ordinary families in Maryland. Luedtke and his Democrat cronies in Annapolis would change the line in the last song on “Sgt. Pepper’s” from “I’d love to turn you on” to “I’d love to tax it all.”

Call and email the leaders of the Maryland General Assembly — Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones — and tell them that the jig is up and that we do not want our legislators to pass, as Hogan has put it, the largest tax increase in the history of this state. A state once referred to as “the Free State.”

Christopher Tomlinson, a member of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee, writes from Melrose. Email him at CCTtomlinson@gmail.com.

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