Ireton takes leadership role in tax fairness debate

Mayor annapolis

When he was in Annapolis last week, lobbying for statewide tax fairness, Mayor Jim Ireton was careful to make a point that he believes is paramount.
“There are 70,000 citizens on the Eastern Shore in Queen Anne’s, Wicomico and Worcester who have no differential at all due to county leaders not even coming to the table to discuss it,” the mayor said.
Concerned about that tax differential, Ireton went to Annapolis with the Maryland Mayors’ Association to support House Bill 690, the Property Tax Fairness Act of 2015.
The bill would re-categorize counties in Maryland from “may” produce a tax setoff for municipalities to “shall” produce a tax setoff for municipalities.
That means counties would be required to provide a property tax setoff if a county and municipality within the county are providing parallel services paid for with property tax dollars, Ireton said.
The bill was introduced by Delegate Carol Krimm, D-MD 3A.
Under current law, Wicomico County may provide a tax setoff for duplicated services, but it isn’t required.
Ireton called the Annapolis experience “a mixed bag.”
“It was so great, in a show of solidarity, to have so many municipal mayors there to support the bill, even those that already had tax differential is some fashion. I visited almost all the committee members to make the Eastern Shore case,” he said.
“Ways and Means leaders indicated that they would prefer the county’s delegation and executive to be there to support the legislation, which in our case is not going to happen. That is disappointing,” he said, referring to County Executive Bob Culver.
Ireton isn’t optimistic the bill will pass.
“It seems as if this bill may not make it out of committee due to ancient, unwritten rules that delegates won’t vote for something unless the home delegate is for it, which in this case is true. Yet, Delegate (Carl) Anderton was not a co-sponsor of Delegate Krimm’s legislation. In the end, the solution is being blocked by politics, which nobody will say or talk about, except me,” he said.
Ireton said he inquired about when the bill will be voted on, “but we got no word from the committee or information when we called.
He remains adamantly in favor.
“Maryland counties have balanced their budgets on the backs of Maryland cities for far too long,” Ireton said, adding he was eager to represent Salisbury, Delmar, Fruitland, Ocean City, Crisfield, and the more than 900,000 Marylanders “who live in municipalities that are taxed by counties.”
“These overtaxed citizens are waiting for those who promised tax relief to make good on those promises. HB690 is tax fairness. HB690 is smart growth. HB690 is long overdue,” he said.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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