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Dixon says he is 'hassled' by Democrats


Del. Richard N. Dixon voted with the strength of his fiscal beliefs at heart and his constituents' wishes in mind Wednesday when he supported a Republican proposal to cut state income taxes by 6 percent.

That strong stand, however, has left him temporarily out in the cold with fellow Democrats, who voted unanimously to kill the measure in a 99-42 vote. All 41 Republican delegates voted for the bill. Delegate Dixon was the only Democrat to join them.

"I have taken a bit of hassling from people," Mr. Dixon acknowledged yesterday. "Several people had asked me to vote with the Democrats."

"Several people" is an understatement, according to Republican delegates, who said Democratic leaders pressured their party members to kill the proposal in a show of support for Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Republicans also noted that the governor's approval rating continues to fall and said approving any type of tax cut would have proven that Ellen R. Sauerbrey, their gubernatorial candidate in the November election, was correct about state spending.

Democratic leaders could not be reached yesterday for comment on Mr. Dixon's vote.

"The Democrats were called to the woodshed on that vote," said Del. Joseph M. Getty, a Manchester Republican. "I admire Dixon for breaking ranks. The issue was political, and what the Democrats ended up doing was hurting the average taxpayer in order to gain some political points."

For Mr. Dixon, the only Carroll County Democrat elected to office last fall, his stance was a familiar one.

"I have always been something of an independent delegate down here," he said, noting that Carroll is a very conservative county. "It has been a must for me. I would have been completely out of my mind to vote any other way."

The fact that Mrs. Sauerbrey won a majority of the votes in Carroll County in November was on his mind as he voted Wednesday, Mr. Dixon said. But he insisted that his decision to support the GOP tax bill was not merely an act to appease local voters.

"It is a good feeling to have the luxury to know in your heart that you voted right and to vote the beliefs of most of your constituents," he said.

Some other Democrats wish they had that luxury, said Robert H. Kittleman, the House minority leader, who represents Howard and Montgomery counties.

Mr. Dixon "voted his conscience. A whole lot of other Democrats didn't," Mr. Kittleman said. "But he's had his backbone stiffened by being the only Democrat in all of Carroll County to carry the vote in the last election."

Former Majority Leader D. Bruce Poole said that he and other Democrats are simply willing to wait for the leadership to completely work out the details of a tax cut.

"I think the Democratic leadership is handing this responsibly," said Mr. Poole, of Washington County. "There are a lot of us who would like to see tax cuts and see them soon.

"I understand why he did it," he said of Mr. Dixon. "But I ultimately decided it was not fiscally prudent to do it this year."

House majority leaders have pointed out that Congress is investigating ways to cut state aid, and they said it is necessary to stock the state's "rainy day fund" against future fiscal emergencies.

But Mr. Dixon said those fears are unfounded.

"I truly believe we could have made the tax cut now," he said. "The difficulty with waiting is that they will find other uses for the money."

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