- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2004

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Maryland could solve many of its fiscal problems by increasing the income tax on its wealthiest citizens, who are not paying a fair share of the cost of government, supporters of two income-tax measures said yesterday.

One bill, dubbed the millionaires’ tax surcharge, would increase the income tax rate to 7.75 percent for people with taxable income of $500,000 or more. That is 3 percentage points higher than the current top rate, which would remain unchanged for all other taxpayers.

A second bill would increase the top rate to 5.75 percent for taxable income more than $210,000 ($160,000 for single individuals) and 6.75 percent for income more than $301,000 for all taxpayers.

Delegate Adrienne Jones, Baltimore County Democrat and chief sponsor of the House version of the millionaires’ tax surcharge, said her bill would produce $455 million for the state budget next year, but would affect 0.04 percent of Maryland taxpayers.

“This is a fairness issue,” she said. “Why should middle-income and lower-income people bear the burden” of financing state government?

Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, Montgomery Democrat and chief sponsor of the second bill, said study after study show that Maryland has one of the least-progressive tax structures in the United States.

Under current law, the top rate of 4.75 percent applies to all taxable income more than $3,000.

“Millionaires pay that rate, and poor people pay that rate,” Miss Gutierrez said at a news conference held by sponsors and supporters of the bill before a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee.

Supporters of the tax measurers are pressing lawmakers to pass the bills even though Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has said he will veto any increases in the sales or income taxes.

Critics of the bills have said they would hurt Maryland in the long run by prompting the wealthiest Marylanders to move to other states with no income tax or with lower rates.

The state Senate yesterday swiftly approved Col. Thomas “Tim” Hutchins’ as the Maryland State Police superintendent.

The vote was unanimous for the former Republican lawmaker just minutes after Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. submitted his name.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said it was the first time in his 18 years as president that the Senate voted on such a nomination without a hearing before the Executive Nominations Committee.

Mr. Ehrlich named Col. Hutchins, 58, as acting superintendent in December after Edward T. Norris was indicted for misuse of funds when he was police commissioner in Baltimore.

Norris pleaded guilty this week to conspiracy to misuse city police funds and one count of filing a false tax form.

Col. Hutchins was a Maryland state trooper from 1973 to 1994 and was representing Charles County in the House of Delegates when Mr. Ehrlich named him the state’s secretary of veterans affairs in February.

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