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“Nationals October 2019

A Municipal Tax Cap Is A Very Bad Idea

Sam Shropshire Discusses The Municipal Tax Cap

Sam Shropshire (D), Candidate for Mayor

Sam Shropshire (D), Candidate for Mayor

It takes real courage as a mayoral candidate in an election year to speak out strongly against a municipal tax cap.  But let me put it simply.

Tax caps are bad for building healthy communities. They are shortsighted attempts to control government spending regardless of purpose. They set arbitrary limits on community spending without addressing important community needs.

Tax caps suppress critical and creative thinking by immediately placing the priority on a dollar amount rather than how we intelligently and responsibly find solutions to socially responsible government.

Regardless of the needs of communities, particularly those most affected by an issue, a tax cap simply says “cut public spending.”  It fails to take into consideration the priority of needs in a community and the particulars of an issue.

In tough economic times, “anti-taxers” come out of the woodwork accusing anyone of a differing opinion of being a “tax and spender,” and they offer their solution — a tax cap. This is a too-familiar scenario in many communities around the nation. Community life and its needs are not so black and white; they are full of color and all shades of gray.

Responsible government should be directed by the common good of families, seniors, workers, schoolchildren and those unable to care for themselves. It must reflect sound policies that protect public safety, community infrastructure, education and public health and local business and not just the “tax base.” It must reflect a vision for healthy community building.

Tax caps polarize communities by unfairly pitting the needs of one constituency against the needs of another. Tough economic times require greater diligence by public officials because the numbers of vulnerable people often increase. In these times, budgets deserve more intense scrutiny rather than overly simplified solutions.

For as long as I have been a resident of Annapolis, as well as a voter and a community activist, Maryland has depended upon property taxation as its prime source of local revenue. Personally, I believe that there are better and fairer ways to raise revenue that are more fairly shared by workers and families alike and that can alleviate the strains on citizens during tough economic tomes.
Nevertheless, candidates for public office and officials are put to a litmus test pledging “no new taxes!” To me, that is like burying one’s head in the sand or turning over and going prolonged blackout for the next decade.

Community budget and spending decisions must be based upon intelligent, conscientious assessment and evaluation of public good and what it takes for a community to provide for that good. If certain levels of taxation affect specific members of the community negatively, then it is up to local governing bodies to find a method of tax relief. Tax relief is not the same as tax cutting! It is determining how to redistribute the tax burden fairly without compromising the public good.

We have only to compare the City of Annapolis’ current fiscal condition with that of Anne Arundel County and its tax cap.  The County lacks the resources to meet many of its needs for education, healthcare, transportation, and public safety.

While the County currently enjoys a AA+ bond rating by Fitch, it has a “Negative Rating Outlook.”  The City has been credited with a AA+ bond rating as well but with a “Stable Rating Outlook.” The AA+ rating reflects the city’s stable employment and tax base, strong financial position, and moderate direct debt burden.

Our current tax rate of 53 cent per hundred dollars of assessment is low compared to other full-service communities in Maryland and around the nation.

In these days of national financial crisis, our city stands stronger than most.  And we must not jeopardize our fiscal well being with a tax cap that will stifle the future of our people and economic growth.

In this fall’s municipal election we must select leaders who will exercise sound financial policies that will benefit all the peoples of our city—a mayor and City Council who will continue to curb unnecessary spending during times of rampant inflation and yet provide a firm financial basis and a prosperous future for all.

Sam Shropshire is a current Alderman for Annapolis City’s 7th Ward. He is a democratic candidate for Mayor and more information can be found on his campaign website, Friends of Sam.

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