From Roy Whiteley, president of Marylanders for Fair Property Taxation:
On February 24, we addressed the Budget & Taxation Committee on SB 458 & SB 724. We were disappointed that more of you could not attend in support of these measures. However, even though our support at the Senate was not as good as it was for the House version, it was adequate and well presented; significant enough to be noticed.
Senator Barry Glassman made eloquent remarks in introducing both bills and their need for passage before introducing Tony and the writer. Our verbal supporting testimony was we feel unjustly foreshortened by Chairman Currie but Tony Passaro, Bel Air TEA Party founder and spokesman did his usual scholarly, humorous delivery that filled in the blanks. Ellie Dieglemann, Ocean City resident and Worcester County Commissioner candidate, together with first time Eastern Shore testier, Cathy Geisler made strong support comments. Currie allowed Cathy a lot of latitude after she announced this being a first time experience. He even complimented her on conclusion. No other supporters were to testify so the usual strategy of delaying potentially controversial bills until late in the day coupled with hours of sauna like temperatures in the hearing room did not have the same debilitating early departure effect on our group as did the House hearing. All stuck it out and made their presentations. Questions from Senator Munson allowed Tony and the writer to fill in some more pertinent points not covered in the time-limited testimony. These hearings continue to be an eye opening, trying experience for the first time participant of this legislative process.
County Executive David Craig and Council President Billy Boniface also supplied written favorable testimony. Each had pressing business commitments that prevented them from making in person statements. Unfortunately, we have not seen any other written support for these measures. That is most disappointing, since just as numbers in the audience are recognized so are written comments. It is not too late, so please submit written comments as well as e-mail messages.
Once again, 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. The money could better spent providing fair assessment methods. 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 not been corrected. Any taxpayer that has ever appealed an assessment would undoubtedly concur with this. The current audit, conducted in the summer of 2009, is mysteriously unavailable for scrutiny!!!! A MACO (Maryland Association of Counties) representative opposed the entire bill on the basis of a simple extension of appeal request from 45 days to 180 days?? No common sense??
The lobbyist argues the size of the task force, which would be 24 citizens, one from each State jurisdiction plus one SDAT member, would be “overwhelming”. Note that the committee conducting the hearing has 15 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 of 24 business people and staff personnel who are asked to help update the Harford County financial policy that has not been updated in 12 years. The group has been meeting since mid-December, weekly on average, for two hours and will finalize a report by the first week of March; less than 3 months. 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 underperforming 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 never too late to write to your Senator, Delegate or to members of the Ways and Means and Budget and Taxation Committees to urge support of these measures. PLEASE DO SO. WE NEED THESE BILLS TO PASS FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL PROPERTY TAXPAYERS!!!!
Remember, Nothing Happens Unless We Make It Happen!!!!