State tax revenue on track, Franchot says
Maryland sales-tax receipts dropped for the second time in three months, but state revenues are still roughly on track for the year, Comptroller Peter Franchot announced yesterday.
Tax collection reports have received intense scrutiny in Annapolis in the past few months because of the budget shortfall - as much as $1.5 billion - that lawmakers are expected to face next year. Sagging numbers could have led to increased pressure on the legislature to return for a special session to address the budget gap.
Corporate income tax and lottery receipts are both below their levels from last year at this time. Sales-tax receipts last month were down 2.4 percent compared with May 2006, and year-to-date collections are up by just 1.8 percent over the previous fiscal year, well below state analysts' predictions.
However, the individual income tax remains strong. Receipts last month were up 8.9 percent over May 2006, and year-to-date figures are up 6.5 percent.
"Revenues, in the aggregate, are still on track with expectations," Franchot said in a letter to Gov. Martin O'Malley and the leaders of the General Assembly.
Andrew A. Green
Car-theft probe leads to indictments
Upper Marlboro --A grand jury has indicted 14 people in connection with what authorities say was a sophisticated car-theft ring that targeted luxury cars in the Washington region.
The group is believed to be linked to the theft of as many as 100 vehicles in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said.
A new Mercedes S500, a 2004 Range Rover, a 2002 Corvette and a 2001 Jaguar are a few of the luxury cars and sport utility vehicles allegedly stolen by the ring. The group is charged with stealing vehicles from homes and car dealerships and then selling them to unsuspecting buyers.
The defendants were each charged with multiple counts of theft, forgery and counterfeiting, with 23 indictments in all. Each count carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
The group, based largely in Prince George's County, altered the vehicle identification numbers on the stolen cars to help hide the theft, authorities said.
Arsenic found in schools' water
Centreville --Six schools in Queen Anne's County have been found to have water high in arsenic, and some parents are calling for more county action on the matter.
The schools - two in Sudlersville and four in Centreville - exceeded federal standards for arsenic in water, the Easton Star Democrat reported yesterday. The federal standard is 10 parts per billion for arsenic, which doesn't pose an immediate health risk to most, but can contribute to health problems after prolonged exposure.
John Nickerson, environmental health director for Queen Anne's County, said the county has a plan to treat the water provided to the two Sudlersville schools. Notices about the arsenic have been posted in the schools.
Land ownership rule abandoned
Sudlersville --The town of Sudlersville has decided against a proposal to require officeholders to own property, an idea that appeared unconstitutional.
Town commissioners in Sudlersville had earlier approved a requirement that commissioners had to own property in town limits to be eligible for office. Similar provisions in other towns have been routinely rejected by courts.
After a public hearing Wednesday, the commission unanimously struck down the idea. "Somewhere between the writing of it and the legality of it, there was a miscommunication," said commission President Bill Faust.