- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 28, 2004

No Maryland politician is doing more to advance the fortunes of state Republicans than House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch. On Thursday, the House, in which Mr. Busch’s Democratic Party commands a 98-43 majority, voted 75-65 in favor of his plan to increase taxes by close to $670 million. Highlights of the scheme — which Mr. Busch was forced to employ plenty of political muscle to ram through — include a 20 percent increase in the state sales tax and an increase in the state income tax, from 4.75 to 6 percent on individuals making more than $150,000 and families with incomes over $200,000. While Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley and Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan are cheerleading for the Busch plan, many of the legislators who voted for it say openly that they want the issue (and perhaps Mr. Busch as well) to go away.

The most bizarre thing about all of this is that Mr. Busch’s tax increases have no serious chance of becoming law. Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich promises to veto them, and the 75 votes Mr. Busch mustered on Thursday leave him 10 short of the number necessary to override a veto. Senate President Mike Miller, like Mr. Busch a Democrat, dismisses the plan as a non-starter.

State Democratic Party Chairman Isiah Leggett also wants nothing to do with the Busch plan. “When you deal with an issue like taxes, you shouldn’t make people take unnecessary heat unless you’re going to get something in return,” says Mr. Leggett, who believes that Mr. Busch’s plan could jeopardize the seats of relatively conservative Democrats. Mr. Busch seems to have embarked on a course that will add significantly to Republican numbers in the General Assembly.

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