An Anne Arundel County Council resolution urging members of the General Assembly to kill bills that would give local jurisdictions the authority to impose higher taxes on wealthier residents failed Monday night after contentious debate that danced along party lines.
The resolution was a statement from Councilman Nathan Volke, R-Pasadena, to the statehouse, because he said the legislation is “effectively just another way of trying to take more tax money out of folks’ pockets.” House Bill 1494 would not require any jurisdiction to change their taxing structure, but enable a shift to a tiered structure.
The push for progressive taxes is being led by County Executive Steuart Pittman — who raised taxes in his first budget last year and has received heavy criticism from Republicans for what they say appear to be attempts to make habit out of it.
“Both Democrats and Republicans realize we have to protect and rebuild the middle class,” Pittman, a Democrat, said in a previous interview with The Capital. “It’s disappearing.”
County Government Affairs Director Pete Baron said it’s not fair that currently in the county, a middle school teacher pays the same tax rates as a millionaire.
“I think it’s a little disingenuous to imply that the package of bills that's before the General Assembly on this subject automatically means raising taxes,” Baron said. “This body would be the final fiscal authority and would have to take a vote on it.”
Volke voted against Pittman’s first budget, which included an income tax jump from 2.5% to 2.81%. He’d introduced a charter amendment resolution that would have capped the income tax at 2.5%. When it failed, Volke said he would pursue the tax cap through the petition process. He’d need 10,000 signatures to move it forward to get it on the 2020 ballot. On Monday he said he was still considering it.
The increased revenue in last year’s budget largely went to teachers, police and fire budgets. Councilwoman Amanda Fiedler, R-Arnold, said her vote for the resolution had nothing to do with how much she values these professions in the county, and more to do with promises she’s made to constituents to keep taxes low.
Councilwoman Lisa Brannigan Rodvien, D-Annapolis, who also works as a teacher with Anne Arundel County Public Schools, said she’s alright with paying more in taxes than residents who make minimum wage. Because, she said, “it is enormously fair.”
Council Chair Allison Pickard, D-Glen Burnie, discouraged councilmembers from debating state-level legislation, arguing that they had their hands full with county matters. She voted against the resolution, and it failed with all seven members voting along party lines.
The council eventually shifted gears and presented a much more unified front to pass a resolution allowing the county to purchase a large parcel of land in Odenton which is being eyed for a new elementary school.
The 37.5-acre parcel will be purchased for $1,092,500 from Stachitas Investments with the funds from the Advance Land Acquisition Capital Project.
“This area has seen a tremendous amount of growth and we must ensure our schools do not continue to be overcrowded,” Pittman said in a statement. “This acquisition will allow us to build a new school in this growing area and provide much-needed recreational uses for the community.”
The resolution passed unanimously.
Before debating potential change to state-level tax law or approving the purchase of land for a new school, the body lauded the county’s first ever African American Councilwoman Sarah Evelyn Carter, who served two terms beginning in 1974. Carter died of heart failure in 1998, and citations given in honor of what would have been her 100th birthday were accepted by her two daughters, Vanessa Carter and Andi Davis.
Councilwoman Sarah Lacey, D-Jessup, presented the citation to Carter's daughters because her district overlaps with the district that Carter used to represent. Carter was also honored with a citation from County Executive Steuart Pittman’s office.
“She was a woman of great integrity,” Baron said, the county’s government affairs director. “She was a champion for the underdog and a voice for those who have no representation in politics, and our locality is a better place because of the contributions that Sarah Evelyn Carter made.”