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Maryland income tax relief will wait until at least next year

Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday that he hopes lawmakers will work with him on tax cuts during next year's General Assembly session.

Marylanders hoping for an income tax break will have to wait until at least next year after Gov. Larry Hogan closed the door on holding a special session of the General Assembly.

Hogan said Tuesday he hopes to work with lawmakers on a tax cut package next year. An attempt to enact the first major income tax cut in more than two decades failed in April when negotiations between the Senate and House of Delegates fell apart on the final day of the annual 90-day session.

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Hogan, a Republican, made his remarks as he prepared to sign nearly 200 bills into law while flanked by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, both Democrats.

"I know that President Miller wants to provide across-the-board income tax cuts, and provide help for small businesses. I know that Speaker Busch wants to give tax relief to struggling low-income families," Hogan said. "Well, I agree with both of them. So I say: Next year, guys, let's get them all done."

After the legislature adjourned April 11 without agreement, Miller floated holding a one-day special session to pass a tax cut package. He said he hasn't been able to get Busch or Hogan on board in the weeks since.

"It takes two to tango and, at this point in time, neither the governor nor the speaker are inclined to call a special session," Miller said in an interview. "Maybe things will change later this summer. You know, it's something that can be done, should be done."

Miller conceded it was unlikely that Busch and Hogan would get on board for a summer session.

"It takes a will to do that and right now there's not a will to move forward," he said.

The most direct path for a special session is for the governor to call lawmakers back to Annapolis. The legislature can convene a special session if enough lawmakers sign a petition to return.

Busch said he hasn't been approached by Miller or Hogan about a special session.

"If the governor wants us to come back, he certainly has the right to do that," Busch said. "He also has to have a justification to the general public why we're coming back in."

The governor made clear on Tuesday, however, that he's willing to wait. He said some of the bills he signed Tuesday reduce fees and taxes. "And with the help of my two friends sitting here with me this morning, we're planning to do so much more," Hogan said.

The tax cut negotiations stalled when delegates insisted on more breaks for moderate-income Marylanders while senators were wedded to a package that gave more breaks to high-income earners. Legislation that would require businesses to give their employees sick time also got folded into the debate.

Both chambers wanted to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps the working poor, but that failed amid other disagreement.

Busch said House budget negotiators offered several options for compromise on taxes and the Senate "didn't want to entertain them."

"I'm not even sure what the Senate's proposal is any more," Busch said.

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Even though lawmakers didn't agree to broad tax cuts, Hogan noted that several of the bills signed Tuesday will offer some relief from fees and taxes.

Among them was a $37.5 million tax break for aerospace giant Northrop Grumman. The company will receive the tax credits over the next five years if it keeps 10,000 jobs in Maryland. The break would be reduced if the company falls below 10,000 employees and it would disappear if the number of employees falls below 9,000.

The credit comes on top of $20 million that lawmakers already planned to award the company for staying in Maryland.

Hogan didn't directly mention the Northrop Grumman tax credit in his remarks, though he noted that the bills he signed would help in "protecting 10,000 Maryland jobs."

Another bill signed into law on Tuesday reduces the cost of birth certificates and death certificates from $24 to $10. That bill was originally written to reduce scores of fees across state government, but lawmakers whittled it down to just the birth and death certificates.

Hogan said that when he took office in 2014, it struck him that Marylanders "were overtaxed from cradle to grave," and he so he was pleased to cut the fees for birth and death certificates.

Other bills signed by Hogan will:

•Require many insurance companies to offer birth control at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient.

•Require doctors to notify patients being tested for Lyme Disease that the tests aren't always accurate.

•Require government bodies to keep meeting minutes and recordings for five years.

•Allow employers to give preference to veterans when hiring and promoting employees.

•Create a new state cosmetology license for blow-dry bars.

•Establish a pilot program in Anne Arundel and Harford counties to study allowing children to be accompanied by a therapy dog when testifying in court.

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