O'Malley signs tax break for Prince George's residents
Cap put on park and planning, water quality fund and transit commission increases
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) signed legislation Tuesday that will provide a tax break for Prince George's County homeowners despite objections by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
Senate Bill 683 mandates taxes paid by county residents toward the M-NCPPC, the Chesapeake Bay Water Quality Fund and the Washington Suburban Transit Commission will not increase by more than 10 percent per year. Currently, property tax increases are capped under the Homestead Property Tax Credit, which the legislation expanded to include the three other taxes.
The legislation was one of 204 bills O'Malley signed at a ceremony in Annapolis on Tuesday.
Park and planning officials opposed the legislation, which was supported by all of the county's state delegates, because it would cost the agency $18.4 million in funding in the next budget. Park and planning officials had been pressuring O'Malley to veto the legislation, saying they will have to cut back on new projects to make up for the loss.
Previously, Prince George's residents did not get the Homestead cap on the taxes they pay to the three independent agencies that handle planning, parks, water services and transportation for Prince George's and Montgomery counties. However, Montgomery County residents have received the cap on their tax bills for more than 20 years, said Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Dist. 23A) of Bowie.
"Residents in Prince George's County have been paying more than they should," said Peters, the bill's lead sponsor. "It needed to stop."
Since 2006, Prince George's residents have had their taxes to the three bi-county agencies increase by an average of 14 percent each year.
Each resident tax bill is based on the assessed value of their home, so each bill is different. State analysts, using an example of an owner of a $375,000 home, estimated the new caps will cut about $846 from the $2,048 total paid on the three taxes. Other state estimates for a $449,000 home in Bowie placed the savings at about $492.
The change takes effect on the next round of property tax bills that go out in July.
Park and Planning officials tried to put off the start date on the last day of the General Assembly on April 12, and circulated a list of projects they said could be cut if the tax break was imposed.
"You should know that projects in your district are now on the chopping block because of [the bill]," M-NCPPC Attorney Adrian Gardner wrote in an e-mail to lawmakers at the end of the session.
Gardner did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
M-NCPPC spokeswoman Andrea Davey said the agency budget is still being worked out and that no specific cuts have been made. M-NCPPC officials will likely meet with the Prince George's County Council to work out the changed budget, Davey said.
After lawmakers declined to rescind the tax cut, commission officials had lobbied O'Malley to veto the bill, warning that it would impact Prince George's County's plans to cancel furloughs since the M-NCPPC planned to give $30 million to the county this year.
A spokesman for County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) has said the commission will need to make internal cuts to balance the loss, but said that it should not affect furloughs or other major county expenses.
"We feel the commission can absorb the cuts in other ways," said John Erzen, a spokesman for the county executive.
O'Malley Spokesman Shaun Adamec said the governor supported the tax relief and that the agency should absorb the loss.
"The governor is confident the leaders of Prince George's County will make the tough decisions they need to, as they have always done," he said.
County lawmakers have said privately O'Malley was unlikely to veto a county tax cut this year, when he is running for a second term against former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R).
Over the last week, hundreds of county residents have signed petitions urging O'Malley to sign the measure, Peters said.
"They've come out in force," he said.
E-Mail Daniel Valentine at email@example.com