We need a primer on O'Malley math

The Baltimore Sun

Martin O'Malley said on the campaign trail that he was "fighting for hard-working Maryland families." He accused Bob Ehrlich of heaping "$3 billion in taxes, tolls and fees on the backs of everyday Maryland families."

And now that he's in office, O'Malley wants to jack up the sales tax, one of the most regressive ways to go.

But the 1-cent -- that's 20 percent -- sales tax increase is part of a larger package, one that is also supposed to cut income taxes for 95 percent of Marylanders. When you figure for all the cuts and increases, 83 percent of Marylanders will pay less in taxes, the administration claims.

Republicans question how it's possible to cut taxes for most residents and still close a $1.7 billion budget gap. Does Maryland really have that many rich people to stick it to?

O'Malley, who doesn't own any property to get a tax break on, will feel the pinch himself. The fitness-buff governor, who still schleps all the way to Canton to work out, would have to pay taxes on his health club membership -- something currently untaxed.

It costs $84 a month to belong to the Merritt Athletic Club, $1,008 a year. Add 6 percent sales tax on top of that and The Gov's out $60.48.

He would tax other so-called "luxury" services, including tanning parlors. Which makes me think O'Malley is not trying to stick it to the rich. He's trying to stick it to Bob and Kendel Ehrlich, who often look unseasonably tan.

Now if you'll all just cram into the kitchen

The trouble with those folksy "kitchen table talks" that Gov. O'Malley used in his gubernatorial campaign and is recycling now in his tax campaign: Only so many reporters and photographers can squeeze into a kitchen. Especially the quaint, just-folks kind of kitchen that makes for good TV.

O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese had to cycle members of the media in and out in shifts. Sarah Achenbach, owner of the Anneslie kitchen table and home where The Gov and the media had descended, took it in stride, The Sun's Andrew Green reports.

"This is good practice for Thanksgiving," she said. "That's what we do at Thanksgiving, we rotate the media through. My turkey is that good."

WJZ gets the scent, and it won't let go

There's a skunk on the loose in Perry Hall, and I know this because it was one of WJZ's top stories the other day.

"An overnight search for a family pet in Perry Hall turns up nothing this morning. But time is running out to find the pet skunk," intoned an anchorman with an impressively straight face. "Gigi Barnett explains from Baltimore County."

How do you explain that? Cut to the grieving exotic-pet owner.

"He's gone," said a weepy Laure Bresnick. "He's our baby, and he is absolutely, positively gone, and we need everybody's help to find him."

On a day when the governor was trying to sell his new income tax plan, President Bush was stumping for warrantless wiretapping, and, God help us, O.J. Simpson posted bond, the station somehow found 2 minutes, 8 seconds for this tearjerker.

That's just 14 seconds short of what WJZ devoted to something else running wild in Baltimore County. "A dangerous child predator is on the loose," we were told in a 2 minute, 22-second bit on a 12-year-old Woodlawn girl who fought off a would-be kidnapper.

Viewers were encouraged to catch the skunk if they saw him, and were assured that Coco posed no danger, since his scent glands had been removed and he's used to being around people. There were no tips, however, for differentiating this friendly, scent-free critter from lookalikes.

Bresnick is offering a reward for anyone who finds her pet. Perhaps she should also offer tomato juice and rabies shots for anyone who mistakes a wild skunk for hers.

Collar that scofflaw

Michael Bloomberg, the Hopkins undergrad who grew up to be New York City's gazillionaire mayor, might be writing a check soon to cash-strapped Baltimore. Not that he wants to.

At a news conference outside his City Hall the other day, Bloomberg posed a question to Mayor Sheila Dixon. (She'd traveled to New York to consult with her Big Apple counterpart, as The Sun's John Fritze reported.)

Bloomberg: "Madame Mayor, is there a statute of limitations on parking tickets? Because I may have some left over from my college days."

Dixon: "I think you need to get them straight."

Bloomberg: "Uh-oh."

Connect the dots

An e-mail from a Baltimore County Catholic high school: "hi everybody, this year a couple of us are starting the youth in politics club. it'll be on thursdays in mr peters room (143). this thursday, the 20th will be the first meeting. it'll be really short and theres gonna be food, too, so stop and see if you want to join." The sender: Grace O'Malley. And my money was on William -- star of his dad's TV commercial -- as the O'Malley most likely to carry on the family business. ... State Sen. George Della and his longtime girlfriend, Lorna Collins, invited a few friends over for a barbecue Saturday. Their guests were surprised to find themselves at a wedding reception. Della and Collins tied the knot at a church beforehand and arrived at the party in a horse-drawn carriage. "It was some nice cookout," he said. "Everybody was dressed down. It was wonderful."

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