Senate approves budget with $500 million tax increase, sends to House

The state Senate approved a package of tax increases Thursday that would affect almost every Marylander in order to close a gap in the state's $35 billion spending plan. The vote on taxes was 26-20, with eight Democrats breaking ranks and voting red.

The plan includes a slight income tax increase for virtually all -- middle class families would pay $65 to $200 per year. It also includes a highly controversial "millionaire’s tax" for earners making more than $500,000 a year. 

The House of Delegates will pass a budget next -- they are expected to have a their own approach to the spending plan. Differences between the two will have to be worked out in a conference committee.

The most pointed senate debate focused on the millionaire's tax, a last minute change adopted late Wednesday evening. It raises $30 million mostly for aging schools, but was not needed to balance the budget.

Republican Sen. David Brinkley, a Republican, said Karl Marx would be proud of the plan, a comment for which he later apologized. Sen. Paul Pinsky,  a liberal Democrat, said he felt he'd been “red baited.”

Sen. Bobby Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat who voted against the tax measures, said he felt "disgusted" with his party for adding the millionaire's tax. It would be applied differently than income taxes for other earners -- with every penny earned assessed at 5.75 percent.

The plan also increases taxes on cigars and adds a sales tax to some online purchases.

The Senate also passed, by a larger margin, a plan that would allow the state to take county income taxes and put the funds towards county schools.

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