Arundel voters give McMillen what for on higher taxes


A day after voting for a $492 billion deficit reduction plan that would cut spending and raise taxes, Representative Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th, came home yesterday to face those who would have to live with it.

And most of them said they would rather live without it.

Ed Ehatt, a county worker from Glen Burnie, approached the congressman at a volunteer fire department fund-raiser in Anne Arundel County. He didn't like the new taxes on liquor, cigarettes and gasoline.

"I don't agree with your vote on the budget," Mr. Ehatt declared. "You should have cut spending. You're going to catch hell, man."

Mr. McMillen calmly explained that the plan, which passed Congress over the weekend and has the support of President Bush, would in fact cut billions in spending and was "fair."

But Mr. Ehatt wasn't buying it. He has voted for the congressman in the past, but he told the Crofton Democrat that this year he was undecided.

"They're all tax-and-spend Democrats. All they want to do is raise the taxes on the working man," he said angrily as Mr. McMillen worked the crowd.

There were many other Mr. Ehatts yesterday -- though not all as blunt -- as the two-term congressman breezed down Route 2, from a Halloween party at the Arundel Center North in Glen Burnie to the Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Department in Pasadena.

Although the budget accord hits wealthy taxpayers, through an income tax boost and limits on their deductions, middle-income and working-class constituents complained yesterday about the costs they will bear.

"They're always trying to get the little person. I don't like it," said Jim Roloson of Glen Burnie.

"I think Middle America is bearing the brunt of the burden," agreed James Ford of Glen Burnie.

Some voters seemed almost resigned to paying more taxes and wondered why it took so long to reach an accord.

"I think they wasted a hell of a lot of time," said Ken England of Brooklyn Park, who was dressed as Uncle Sam at the Halloween party.

They spoke out against the 5-cent increase in the federal gasoline tax and the 4-cent boost on cigarettes or the 16 more cents for a six-pack of beer. And there were also the middle-income taxpayers who will see their taxes rise by about 2 percent under the accord.

The congressman spent much of his time trying to remind voters that the White House opposed the Democrats' plan to place a surtax on millionaires.

He kept hammering home the theme that has caused GOP candidates to drop in the polls: The Republicans are trying to shield the rich.

"I don't think Bush can blame it on the Democrats," said Tom Kolodziejski, 34, of Pasadena.

"We tried to make it fair," Mr. McMillen told Lisa Wills and her husband, Douglas, at the Halloween party.

"There's no way you can," she told him, explaining to a reporter later that the wealthy will still find tax loopholes under the agreement but that she and her husband won't be able to avoid the 2 percent increase in their taxes.

"We have a hard time making ends meet as it is," said Mr. Wills, a computer programmer from Odenton, who arrived at the party with his two young sons. "There's an awful lot of people upset."

Still there were some, like Joan Blake of Laurel, a federal government budget analyst, who backed the accord.

"I think it's pretty balanced," she said.

Many interviewed said there should be drastic changes in Congress. Throw the rascals out, they said.

"It's time for some young minds," said one man.

But most didn't place Mr. McMillen in the rascal category.

"What I really appreciate is he stays in the public eye," Mrs. Wills said.

Even Mr. Lang, who denounced the budget accord that Mr. McMillen backed, said he will probably vote for McMillen.

"He hasn't been there too many years," Mr. Lang said.

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