It's Not Fair
Editor: Once again, we are asked to swallow a bill of goods under the guise of "fairness" relative to the tax reform proposal for Maryland.
The Linowes commission has dealt a real winner. First, property taxes will be reduced. With half of the Baltimore County budget going toward education, the property owner, generally with more children in the public schools than the renter, will be subsidized by the renter. The proposal also states that all renters will be eligible for the circuit breaker. Now, renters must be over age 60 or totally disabled to receive up to a maximum of $600 credit for a portion of the rent considered to be property taxes, but homeowners of any age can receive up to $1,500. Credits are based on family income. Isn't this discriminatory?
In lowering property tax rates, will the law mandate lowering rents proportionately or will the landlord be allowed to pocket this windfall? The renter pays the property tax in the rent -- the landlord merely collects it and remits to the county.
Gasoline taxes, paid by the motoring public, in addition to financing the infrastructure, subsidize public transportation. The law requires only 50 percent of the costs to come from the fare box, which means that bus and metro passengers are riding for half fare.
As to the 2-percent personal property tax on automobiles, by whom and how will the value of a car be determined? A car depreciates every year and values will continue to diminish. How does this affect the auto industry, which has been in the doldrums for many years? Won't cars be kept longer which will impact on the titling tax and personal property tax?
We can only hope that our legislators will see that this scheme is neither logical nor "fair" and will label it "D.O.A."
Editor: Jonathan Paul Yates, writing on foreign ownership of U.S. property, may be an expert on foreign trade, but he comes up a little bit backward on his analysis of the financial effect of such ownership.
He claims that the $663-billion excess of foreign ownership makes the U.S. the world's most indebted nation. Quite the contrary: They have paid the money to us. This money we have in exchange for our property we may do with as we wish; we may invest it, or spend it on Japanese cars and VCRs. It is this choice, not the sale of our property to Japanese or other foreign nationals, which makes us debtors.
Of course, U.S. government policy has played a big role in these decisions. Under the guise of "fairness," our laws penalize investment with confiscatory capital-gains taxes, and then inflate and devalue our dollars in such a way as to further discourage investment -- and encourage foreign purchase of our assets.
Almost every other capitalist nation in the world does not submit capital gains to taxation, or, if it does, it allows an adjustment for inflation. If we want to discourage foreign investment here, we should change our policy to provide incentives for our own citizens to make and maintain these investments, instead of incentives to spend and consume, which our current tax laws do. Rather, we see hands being wrung and more useless legislation proposed.
Franklin W. Littleton.
Editor: This is in response to William Fromm's Nov. 23 letter regarding unleaded gasoline. It contains some significant errors TTC which should not be left to stand uncorrected.
Mr. Fromm accuses "big oil" of duping the public about the price of unleaded gasoline. Eliminating lead, he says, should have resulted in "pure" gasoline at a lower retail price.
Lead, actually tetraethyl lead, had been added to gasoline to improve octane for many years. It is true that oil companies resisted the government order to eliminate lead, but not for the reasons stated and implied in Mr. Fromm's letter. The problem was that at the time that the order was proposed, there was no known substitute for improving octane.
Eventually, and at considerable cost, various substitutes were developed. The problem, however, is that it is more difficult to obtain the same octane ratings with the substitutes as with lead. To make the same quantity of gasoline of a particular octane requires more crude oil if the substitutes are used than if lead were used. The increase in the cost of unleaded gasoline resulted from the increased crude oil needs, the increased cost of lead substitutes and changes in refining technology.
Making gasoline is not as simple as making Jello; the oil companies are spending huge sums making gasoline that is acceptable commercially, environmentally and socially. There may be some valid criticisms of the oil industry, but critics should get their facts straight first.
William A. Heidecker.
Editor: The world is familiar with the name of Saddam Hussein, since he's associated with the subject of hostages, with his policies in the Persian Gulf. However, there is another example of a person right here in Maryland who is associated with the subject of hostages.
Right now, Gov. William Donald Schaefer is holding hostage Maryland government employees, kidney-disease patients and a host of other hapless people in Maryland as the budget crisis worsens.
But, you say, the budget crisis was a result of the recession in our country; these cuts are as regretable as they are are not avoidable.
Of course the state could stop sending out multicolored newsletters from the Stadium Authority, or the state could print its yearly report on the Convention Center less expensively, or the state could delay or stop projects like the convention center proposed for Allegany County, or the light-rail system or any of a hundred projects. But that will not fill the bill.
What is needed are cuts so drastic that lives are ruined and worlds come to an end. That way people will say to themselves. "You know maybe we do need a tax increase, just like Governor Schaefer wanted all along."
Michael J. Davis.
The High Cost of Pollution
Editor: Since September, The Sun has run a number of articles reporting on the Clean Air Act and its projected repercussions upon our state and nation. It is becoming more obvious that government regulation is necessary to curtail the onslaught of Maryland's environment by pollution.
The state and pollution-causing industries must pay the price for cleaning up decades of environmental carelessness. The Clean Air Act would require Baltimore City and Maryland to comply with ozone depleting emission limitations and nitrous oxide safety levels while also mandating an ethanol-gasoline mixture at the pumps.
While Maryland's environmental situation is not as critical as Fresno or Los Angeles, it ranks ninth-worst overall and had an acid rain content ten times that of normal rainfall.
Considering Maryland's delicate estuarian ecosystem, it is evident that unless government intervenes, our state will become another example of industry and deregulation working together to destroy the environment.
In your October article, "Md. businesses expect new costs from Clean Air Act," the CONSRAD Research Corporation's projections considered the economic effect of the bill upon the state. It brought home the long-term cost and job-market effects, without reporting on the long-term effects on the environment and economy without such a law.
Maryland's deteriorating seafood industry is a prominent example of how pollution is crippling not just our environment, but our economy. The crabs, clams and oysters have dwindled and could soon become cost-prohibitive to farm.
Project the loss of family-operated businesses and employment without the seafood trade due to pollution in 15 years. Let Marylanders know that the skyrocketing cost of their seafood is not due to greedy restaurants or bay harvesters but to pollution that has all but killed the industry.
This only begins to scratch the surface of the long-term pollution problem facing our state. As the ozone layer becomes depleted, the numbers of sun-worshipers and beach-goers will dwindle due to the health hazardous ultraviolet rays of the unfiltered sun. Maryland's tourist industry will be dealt a severe blow.
Consider the huge real estate industry in Ocean City that employs a large work force and greatly boosts the state's revenue. Project it gone after the next 15 years due to the enormous risk of cancer without our earth's protective ozone shield and see what laissez-faire pollution legislation will eventually do to our people and economy.
Finally, consider the impact on property as Maryland becomes deemed one of the most unhealthy states. Ask the people of Niagara Falls, N.Y. or Harrisburg, Pa., how environmental problems destroyed or stymied their life-long investment and ask whether environmental protection is worth the cost.
Tom Lattanzi, director of corporate relations for Crown Central Petroleum, based in Maryland, was quoted in the above-mentioned article as asking, "How much is the public willing to pay for clean air?"
The answer is: With our diet, our homes and our health.