Colleges invoke Einstein to plug tax overhaul


Borrowing from Einstein's theory of relativity, college administrators in Maryland have organized a campaign promoting an overhaul of the state tax code to increase revenue for higher education programs.

Posters will be put up and lapel buttons distributed with the formula "E=mc" at higher education facilities, public and private, in the state. For the college administrators, the formula translates into "Education = Maryland's Critical Challenge."

The campaign, which is to get into full swing in the fall, is aimed at helping students and their families, faculty and campus employees.

"You don't have to be a genius. Tax reform works for everyone," states a bold black-and-white poster sponsored by Maryland Educators for Tax Reform.

The campaign is the idea of the state higher education secretary, Shaila Aery, whose boss, Gov. William Donald Schaefer, is strongly seeking legislative enactment of the Linowes commission plan, an overhaul of the state tax code that would raise $800 million in new revenue.

The state says it needs the overhaul to overcome drastic declines in tax revenues that have resulted in deep cuts in funding for higher education this year.

The cuts caused freezes in hiring and purchases and have caused most college administrators to drop or alter plans for expansion. If tax revenues continue to decline as predicted by the Maryland Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning, higher education is again a prime target for the budget ax, says Jeffrey Welsh, spokesman for the state higher education commission.

Aery believes an overhaul of the state tax code could translate into fiscal relief.

In support of the campaign, she has assembled a speakers bureau of university presidents and college administrators, such University of Maryland Law School Dean Michael Kelly, Loyola College official Charles Scott and UM Baltimore County administrator Laslo Boyd, to lobby for an overhaul of the tax code.

Also, campus public relations officials have been directed to "communicate" the need for the overhaul to students and facul

ty and to use student newspapers and other campus publications to do so.

"We have been asked to spread some awareness among administrators to build interest and support for the idea," says David Taylor, spokesman for the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

"If you're looking . . . throughout the state, workers, parents and students are all affiliated with higher education. They have constituent impact" on state legislators, Taylor says.

Welsh, who is directing the team of public relations officials, predicts that about 1 million state taxpayers can be reached through the higher education campaign.

"There are 260,000 college students in Maryland and . . . their parents and families," Welsh says. "There is no hardball being played here. This is just a segment of state government that has the potential to reach a large number of people."

UM at College Park President William Kirwan, a member of the speakers bureau, says, "The purpose is to get the message out to the citizens of the state about the needs we have in education at all levels."

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