From Roy Whiteley, president of Marylanders for Fair Property Taxation:
Yesterday, we had the privilege of addressing the Ways and Means Committee on HB 204. We were fortunate to have more of you attend in support of this measure than we have had in previous years. While the group was not overwhelming, it was nonetheless significant enough to be noticed. Hopefully, we can do even better when the senate version, SB 458, is scheduled for hearing.
Delegate Wayne Norman made great remarks in introducing the bill and its need for passage. Delegate Susan McComas testified in strong support of the measure. Additional verbal supporting testimony was provided by the writer, Nick Loffer Americans for Prosperity, Tony Passaro, Bel Air TEA Party, Maureen Harper, AFP, Ellie Dieglemann, and Samuel Ownings, Chestertown farmer/developer. Several other signees were to testify but the usual strategy of delaying potentially controversial bills until late in the day coupled with hours of sauna like temperatures in the hearing room took its toll forcing a number of our supporters to leave early. This appears to be a normal method of wearing down the taxpayer and eliminating any effort of taxpayers to voice their opinion. Unfortunately, for those who were not prepared for the long haul in waiting out this tactic and finally being heard, we lost some of our audience. These hearings are an eye opening, trying experience for the first time participant of this legislative process. We were pleased to see Delegate Mary Dulaney James, Senators Barry Glassman and Andy Harris and assistant/candidate Kathy Szeliga step out of their respective hearings to stop by to chat with us and offer support of Delegate Norman’s bill.
Written favorable testimony was also supplied by County Executive David Craig and Council President Billy Boniface. Each had pressing business commitments that prevented them from making in person statements. Both have indicated intent to attend SB 458, the senate version of this bill when it is introduced. Joan Ryder, Realtor, submitted a favorably written statement. Maryland Association of Realtors Director of Regulatory Affairs, Mark Feinroth testified and with Bill Castelli, Vice President of Government affairs also submitted written testimony. Unfortunately, no other written support was in evidence in support of this measure. That is most disappointing, since just like numbers in the audience are recognized so are written comments. Please submit written comments as well as e-mail messages. We hope that many of you submitted supportive e-mail messages but we have no way of checking what might have been sent in other than from the few folks who sent us copies of their submissions.
In what we see as the ultimate slap in the taxpayer’s face, the Department of Assessments and Taxation has the audacity to hire an Annapolis lobbyist to oppose the will of the taxpayer. This Department, which supposedly serves the taxpayer, spends taxpayer’s dollars to send a lobbyist to make lame arguments against a study that could be beneficial to both the State and its taxpayers in lieu of having one of their own staff testify if they truly feel that this taxpayer initiative is in any way harmful to the well being of the State or its taxpayers. They argue that Legislative Auditors conduct a review of the Department every three years. True, but the last audits in 2004 and 2007 contained several pages of problems which from reports we have received from reliable sources, certainly have never been corrected. This would undoubtedly be concurred with by any taxpayer that has ever appealed an assessment. The current audit, conducted in the summer of 2009, is mysteriously unavailable for scrutiny!!!!
The lobbyist argues the size of the task force, which would be 24 citizens from each State jurisdiction plus one SDAT member would be “overwhelming”. Note that the committee conducting the hearing has 23 members plus a sizeable staff!!!! We testified that Tony Passaro and the writer currently serve on Harford County Executive David Craig’s Financial Plan/Policy Advisory Committee. This group of 24 business people and staff personnel are asked to help update the Harford County financial policy which has not been updated in 12 years. The group has been meeting since December, weekly on average, for two hours. We are asked to finalize a report by the first week of March and are on track to do so. The SDAT lobbyist claims “it would be very difficult to complete such a massive undertaking (meaning the task force study) in 6 months”. Obviously, he has more experience with under performing bureaucrats than with task oriented, overachieving business people. The lobbyist’s final argument is that “this Task Force would require the Department to divert personnel from other responsibilities; there are no existing positions to provide the effort that would be required to conduct this review”. Makes one wonder how they evaluate their own performance or solve in-house problems, doesn’t it????
It is not too late to write to your Delegate or to members of the Ways and Means Committee to urge support of this measure. PLEASE FIND THE TIME TO DO SO. WE NEED THIS BILL TO PASS FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL PROPERTY TAXPAYERS!!!!
Remember, Nothing Happens Unless We Make It Happen!!!!
LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING YOU AT SB 458 HEARING