- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Gov. Martin O’Malley, the Maryland General Assembly and politicians in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties appear to be laying the groundwork for a population exchange with Virginia and other neighboring states. The trading works this way: Maryland overtaxes tax small- and medium-sized computer businesses, but lays out the welcome mat for illegal aliens; meanwhile, Virginia yanks the welcome mat for illegals, but is prepared to welcome businesses from Maryland. Sound far-fetched? It really isn’t.

Arlo Wagner of The Washington Times recently reported on the fact that months after Prince William County began one of the country’s strongest crackdowns on illegal immigration, officials and residents say that illegals are leaving. That’s not surprising, because Virginia has become increasingly inhospitable to illegals and has barred them from obtaining driver’s licenses.

But Maryland has been moving in the opposite direction, with politicians permitting illegals to obtain driver’s licenses and putting out the welcome mat for them to resettle in the state. In October, when Prince William County enacted legislation allowing police to ask questions about immigration status, Montgomery County responded to reports that illegals were migrating to his county by complaining that Virginians were trying to “shift the burden” elsewhere. In Prince George’s County, Democratic lawmakers boasted about the county’s ability to attract illegals who felt unwelcome in Virginia. The critics, however, were not objecting to “immigration” but to “illegal immigration.”

Since then, there have been numerous reports alluding to how some illegals, feeling unwelcome in Virginia, have moved to Maryland. One front-page article in The Washington Post (March 12) dealt with the problem of fielding soccer teams in Prince William because many of the players, who were illegals, were afraid of being picked up by police. Some of them spoke of fleeing to Maryland.

While Maryland politicians are doing their best to ensure the state remains hospitable to illegals, they look to be in the process of taxing computer firms out of the state. During November’s special session on the budget, the General Assembly passed a 6 percent sales tax on computer services that threatens to chase away jobs. The tax, slated to take effect July 1, has prompted angry warnings from the companies that they will leave Maryland for lower-tax Virginia and Delaware. The former head of Virginia’s state economic development agency even penned a taunting letter to the Baltimore Sun thanking Maryland for chasing business into Virginia. Mr. O’Malley and Senate President Mike Miller now say they want to repeal the tax and make up the lost revenue by imposing higher income taxes on upper-income Marylanders. Montgomery County, meanwhile, must concern itself with tax increases chasing its residents across the Potomac into Virginia.

The floodgates swung wide during the Reagan years have given new meaning to the term border crossings. Will Maryland politicians ever catch on?

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