Home tax credit in need of repair

The Baltimore Sun

The article concerning homestead tax breaks given legislators for properties that are not their principal residences raises an interesting question: If Baltimore was to cross-reference licensed rental properties with those receiving the homestead credit - which yielded 1,700 taxpayers ineligible for the credit - why did the General Assembly have to force every homeowner to apply for the credit ("Home tax benefits wrongly accepted," Aug. 10)?

Although I supported the 2007 legislation requiring the applications, it quickly became obvious that the legislature had thrown out the baby with the bathwater. That's why I sponsored legislation in the 2008 session (which did not pass) that would have repealed the requirement that homeowners apply for the credit.

In light of the city's demonstrated method for ferreting out duplicate credits, I think the State Department of Assessments and Taxation could similarly handle the responsibility of ensuring that those who receive the credit are, in fact, principal residents of a given property.

But instead, we have created another layer of bureaucracy in which many homeowners, particularly among the elderly, who were utterly unaware of the need to reapply for the homestead credit are trapped.

After the tax increases imposed last fall, that is the last thing taxpayers need.

Wade Kach, Cockeysville

The writer represents District 5B in the House of Delegates.

The fact that our state representatives refuse to correct this befuddled and foolish homestead tax credit program is almost beyond belief.

The thought that honest folks - including our elderly and undereducated citizens - must prove their eligibility for this program to avoid ruinously high property taxes is not only a travesty of justice but also profoundly immoral.

Henry H. Emurian, Baltimore

Microchip market works very well

If Robert H. Lande were truly concerned about consumer welfare, as he claims he is in his column "World War 4.0" (Commentary, July 31), he would have investigated the facts about the microprocessor industry more carefully.

For years, consumers at every level have been the winners in that industry as competition in the microprocessor industry has been vigorous and unrelenting, a picture that is the exact opposite of that of the stagnant monopoly Mr. Lande describes.

Output of microprocessors has been expanding at a breathtaking pace; the performance of microprocessors has been improving exponentially.

During the past seven years, the quality-adjusted prices of microprocessors tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics have declined, on average, at a rate of more than 42 percent each year - outstripping every other item in the 1,200 product categories tracked by the bureau. Microprocessor output has also increased almost 300 percent in the last 10 years.

So what is the problem?

Advanced Micro Devices, Intel's competitor, doesn't like the fact that Intel meets its competition and offers attractive discounts, with the result that prices have fallen dramatically in this industry.

But Intel is entitled to price-compete aggressively. Indeed, U.S. antitrust laws encourage it to do so, as long as its prices are above its costs and it earns a profit on sales.

As the Supreme Court has made clear in six decisions, spanning 20 years, above-cost price-cutting is sacrosanct - it's the antitrust equivalent of free speech in First Amendment jurisprudence.

As the court has ruled, permitting judicial challenges to such competitive conduct runs too high a risk of chilling the aggressive price competition the antitrust laws encourage.

Mr. Lande seems all too ready to accept AMD's view of the facts but fails to realize that AMD is simply trying to twist Intel's legitimate discounting practices into exclusive dealing or some other form of unlawful competition.

Those accusations collide with reality. Intel never engaged in exclusive dealing. Intel has never refused to sell microprocessors to a computer manufacturer if that manufacturer purchased chips from AMD.

To the contrary, 10 of the 12 largest PC manufacturers buy from AMD, and Intel continues to offer them discounts to compete for as much of their business as it can win.

Robert E. Cooper, Los Angeles

The writer is counsel for the Intel Corp.

Diversity of views not new to Sun

I read conservative Ron Smith's first column in The Sun with amusement ("It's time for a different perspective on this page," Commentary, Aug. 13).

He states that "liberals" (like those that write for The Sun's opinion page) do not promote diversity of thought; yet over the years, I have looked forward to reading commentaries from conservatives such as Cal Thomas and George Will in The Sun.

I still await the day when I will see a liberal viewpoint expressed in conservative outlets such as The Washington Times or on Fox News.

I expect that in his column in The Sun, Ron Smith will, as he has done on WBAL for years, continue to provide insight into the thought process of what people who are not really thinking are thinking.

He may have snookered the Rush Limbaugh crowd, but he will have to do much better in an environment where people are swayed by a logical thought process, not just a loud voice.

Scott A. Paris, Catonsville

Big senior center remains a bad fit

Keswick Multi-Care Center CEO Libby Bowerman makes several claims in her recent letter regarding her organization's desire to build a large continuing care retirement community on 17 acres of open space currently owned by the Baltimore Country Club in Roland Park ("Center sustains open space," letters, Aug. 9).

Most of the community opposes this proposal, as does the Roland Park Civic League.

Claim: The proposal will preserve green space.

Fact: Only 6 of the 17 acres Keswick wants to buy would be left undisturbed, according to its plans.

The nine buildings Keswick proposes to build, along with the other areas it intends to pave, would cover a footprint of more than 200,000 square feet.

The scale is massive. The footprint of the Keswick development would be approximately twice that of the buildings at the Rotunda Shopping Center.

Claim: Keswick does not need a zoning change to build this project, just a planned unit development ordinance.

Fact: Keswick's intended use is not allowed under current zoning. It must seek a PUD to allow the additional uses it proposes, and this is effectively a rezoning. A PUD is such a drastic change in land-use law that it must be implemented though an ordinance passed by the City Council and signed by the mayor.

Claim: Keswick has been a good neighbor to Roland Park.

Fact: Most Roland Parkers agree, and this is all the more reason we are surprised by the terrible mistake Keswick has made.

Without any community input, a development completely out of character with our neighborhood has been proposed.

We have suggested alternative locations to Keswick that would allow it to stay in Baltimore, alternatives that would enhance and not destroy the alternative site.

A compromise that would be better for all parties than the current proposal is still achievable.

It would involve the community purchasing the land from the BCC and Keswick finding an alternative location for its center.

Philip J. Spevak, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Roland Park Civic League.

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