Framing the Dialogue

Parse-imony – Sin Tax

In “Parse-imony” I break down current news stories with my pithy, running commentary…

First the headline: 

Racing, alcohol tax on tap for General Assembly’s final day

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland lawmakers will debate today an increase in the sales tax on alcoholic beverages and how to subsidize troubled horse racing tracks as the General Assembly pushes toward midnight adjournment. [It is extremely interesting that the Maryland elected officials are looking to tax citizen who prefer to imbibe while at the same time give money to (although “subsidize” sounds much better) folks who run another “sin tax” operation leaving little doubt who has better lobbyists.]

There’s also plenty of fine-tuning [They are conducting polling to see how much they can increase the tax before you revolt; alternatively they are deciding which of them is least vulnerable during the next election so that they can sponsor/vote for the measure.] to do on measures that have passed both chambers with different provisions, including a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at colleges and universities if they meet certain requirements, such as paying state income taxes. [I do not understand how any elected official, who swore an oath to protect the constitution, could vote in favor of granting breaks to illegal immigrants who, by definition, are law breakers.]

As they do every year, lawmakers are expected to work through the last minute of the day scrounging to pass those measures and others before they close the 2011 session. [Usually on a Friday evening so that their efforts get very sparse news coverage on the weekend.  I am surprised that legislatures don’t have legislative packages ready to roll out when some significant event occurs like American Idol finals or Obama vacationing.]

One of the most high-profile measures still before lawmakers would raise the state’s sales tax on alcohol from 6 percent to 9 percent in July. Late Saturday night [here is that procedure to do painful tax increases when folks are not paying attention], the House of Delegates changed the proposal to implement the increase all at once, instead of gradually raising it during three years. [to use a drinking analogy they’re asking you to do a shot rather than sipping your wine.]

The change means the state would raise about $85 million in the next fiscal year, instead of about $29 million. [Or another way of saying it is that citizens will pay an additional $85 million in taxes the next fiscal year.] A large portion of the new money will go to school construction in the first year the tax increase takes effect. [Drink up so little illegal immigrants have nicer schools to attend.  I am assuming that the illegals who will benefit from in-state tuitions are already attending K-12 schools.]

Supporters say an increase in the alcohol tax has been a long time coming [If I am ever elected I would like to fund a study to determine what part of a progressive’s brain assumes first that money that I earn is theirs first.  I, of course, would seek private funding for the study.  I would also have to find liberals who both have brains and would be willing to donate them – liberals are notoriously stingy…with their stuff], but opponents contend the sales tax in general was raised from 5 percent to 6 percent in a 2007 special session.

Delegate Jolene Ivey, D-Prince George’s, said she believes the tax increase will make it harder for underage people to buy alcohol. [Perhaps Jolene should change her name to Dorothy since she’s not in Kansas anymore.  The new tax will make it harder for poor kids to afford alcohol, not the rich.  This tax will hurt the poor more than the rich.]

“It’s way overdue,” Ivey said Saturday. [No your need to be fired and “get on with your life’s work” is overdue.  That quote or misquote is advice from Pittsburgh Steeler’s great coach to a player who wanted to continue playing past his prime.]

But Republicans opposing the measure in the Democratic-controlled House became enraged as they tried fruitlessly to block the new tax in a debate that stretched into late Saturday night. They also repeatedly criticized the distribution of the proceeds mostly to urban and suburban areas, with little for rural parts of the state. [The dichotomy of many RINOs…we’re against the tax, but if we have to have it we want our share.  Sometimes there is not a dimes worth of difference between them.]

“When does it end?” yelled House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell, R-Calvert, before slamming down his microphone. A handful of Baltimore delegates said “never.”

A committee has changed a House bill to allocate $47.5 million of the new money to school construction, mostly to urban and suburban jurisdictions. Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, as well as Baltimore city, would receive $9 million each. Baltimore County would get $7 million; Anne Arundel County would receive $5 million; and Howard County would get $4 million. Allegany, Carroll, Garrett, Frederick and Washington counties would get a total of $750,000. Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s would receive $1.3 million. Eastern Shore counties, including Dorchester, Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset and Talbot, would get a total of $1.3 million. [Sounds like a decent way to help schools, but the news didn’t say that the PERMANENT tax increase would PERMANENTLY benefit schools.  I think in the retail business they call this a loss leader.]

The House also changed a bill already passed by the Senate to increase money for the developmentally disabled from $5 million to $15 million in the next fiscal year. [This will provide a nice election commercial for any legislator who “votes against disabled children.”]

Lawmakers also will work on legislation to allocate millions of dollars in state aid to help Maryland’s ailing horse racing industry. [The phrase “horse racing industry” seems odd to me…sounding a lot like “corn for ethanol industry” or “solar power industry” or “green energy industry”  When I think of industry I think of producers who produce thinks that citizens are clammering for like incandescent light bulbs.]

Under a proposal moving through the state Senate, Maryland race tracks would have to agree to simulcast their races before they get the help. The measure is part of a compromise Gov. Martin O’Malley crafted to keep horses racing in Maryland this year to allow track owners to borrow money from the state. Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Laurel Park and Rosecroft Raceway would have to agree on a plan to broadcast each other’s races before they could access the money. Ocean Downs near Ocean City would not be affected by the proposal. [They must have better lobbyists and are getting money through some other program.]

As usual, lawmakers in both chambers will work out compromises in different versions of legislation that already has passed both houses.  [All, of course, being done honoring Sunshine laws and open to the public.]

For example, the House and Senate have some differences to work out on a bill that would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at four-year colleges and universities in Maryland [Will there be a box on their college application to allow student to check: ¤ Resident, ¤ Out-of-state,  ¤ Illegal?] if they complete two years at a community college and show that their parents paid state income taxes for three years. [How does an illegal immigrant pay income taxes without a SSN?  Please someone tell me how!]

The House has included a requirement that male students register with Selective Service, or the draft, in order to be eligible.  [Just what our military wants in a recruit…a felon.]

The House also has changed the bill to require students to show taxes were paid on a state tax return. If a student’s parents did not earn enough to file a tax return, they would have to prove they worked at least 90 days in each of the three years.  [Perhaps this is a ruse to get illegals to identify those entities who employ them allowing ICE to bust them.]

Lawmakers already have decided to refer a variety of bills to study [a weasly way to pass a law without putting their fingerprints on the task.  Isn’t this double dipping since we are paying elected officials and now rather than doing their job they will pay someone else with our money to study the situation?  If they “select” the proper organizaton to conduct the study they’ll most likely get the results that they desire.  My prediction that there will be a study commissioned to show how beneficial alcohol is to our health.], including O’Malley’s proposal to mandate state utilities to enter into long-term contracts to buy wind energy from a wind farm planned for 12 miles off the coast of Ocean City. [The “mandate” is not different than a “subsidy” because the costs of the mandate, like taxes, will come out of our pockets only this time it will be on your electric bill.]

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