- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — The Board of Public Works is expected to keep the state’s property-tax rate at 11.2 cents per $100 of assessed value, but will postpone the vote for Comptroller Peter Franchot, who is recovering from a kidney stone.

Mr. Franchot serves on the board with Gov. Martin O’Malley and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, all Democrats.

The comptroller is expected to vote with Mr. O’Malley to maintain the state’s property-tax rate, but Mrs. Kopp supports raising the property tax, which would result in a split vote at today’s meeting.

The board must approve a property tax rate by May 1.

The state property tax is used to pay off capital debt on public buildings, including schools and prisons, and is generally set to meet the full debt payments. The current rate is expected to create a $226 million budget gap over the next five years that would have to be covered by the state’s operating funds.

“You have to pay the debt service, or you’re not going to build the schools,” Mrs. Kopp said yesterday.

Mrs. Kopp said she supports raising the property tax to 12 cents to avoid creating a $226 million capital debt gap and going to the general fund each year to cover state construction costs.

Mr. O’Malley opposes the idea, as he has all other tax increases during his first year in office.

Mr. O’Malley “is committed to making our state government more efficient and finding more costs savings before asking the citizens of Maryland to pay more in taxes,” said Rick Abbruzzese, the governor’s spokesman.

Lawmakers criticized Mr. O’Malley during the most recent legislative session for not addressing a pending $1.5 billion budget deficit, which appears to be growing larger because of sluggish tax receipts. The governor has not said whether he will call a special session to resolve the problem.

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, raised the property tax to 13.2 cents per $100 of assessed value during his first year in office, when he faced an estimated $1.8 billion budget deficit.

Mr. Ehrlich eventually cut the property tax rate by 2 cents last year, with the support of then-Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat.

Mr. Ehrlich also said he cut spending rather than building a case to raise taxes.

“This spend-and-tax mentality appears to be a return to the Glendening era,” Mr. Ehrlich said yesterday, referring to his predecessor Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat. “At this level of government, you cannot print money.”

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