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“20 by 2020” Tax Cut Passes; Some Dissent

May 1, 2012
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Wait up, says Councilman Bill Henry: We don't have any slots yet.

In a rare display of non-unanimity, City Council members Bill Henry (4th District), Carl Stokes (12th), Warren Branch (13th) and Mary Pat Clarke (14th) voted to send a property tax break for city homeowners back to committee. The ten other council members, including Council president Bernard C. ‘Jack” Young, voted against the measure and then passed the bill over Clarke and Branch’s “no” votes and Henry’s abstention.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake touted passage of the bill in a press release e-mailed on May 1, saying  the “New tax credit program will provide 20 cent property tax cut by 2020 for homeowners, without slashing funding for crime reduction and public education.”

The bill, 12-0040, offers small reductions in property tax rates on owner-occupied homes over each of the next eight years, with the revenue loss being partially replaced by taxes paid by the operators of the planned slot machine emporium. Billed as “20 by 2020,” Mayor Rawlings-Blake has made it central to her effort to attract more homeowners to the city.

The bill had reached Third Reader, a status that normally leads to unanimous passage. But Councilman Henry stood to say that the tax credit perhaps should be delayed until the slots parlor is closer to fruition. The cut will slice $3.8 million from the city’s budget next year, he said, which is a big part of the $4.6 million in additional after-school activities funding advocates have suggested the mayor consider.

“This is a matter of timing,” Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said. “We have on our desk tonight the mayor’s budget. I haven’t read it yet. It seems not quite right to cut taxes before we ascertain that this budget has the funds we need to meet the needs of our youth.” She suggested the council read the budget first and pass the tax cut later.

Council Vice President Ed Reisinger (10th District) said his constituents want the tax cut, and that the committee process found the bill favorable. “The mayor today committed to work with the council” in regard to budget items for youth services, he said.

In voting to hold the bill a week, Clarke said the tax cut would amount to $3.30 per month for the owner of a home assessed at $200,000.

“I want to thank Council President Bernard ‘Jack’ Young and members of the City Council for giving relief to city homeowners,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake in her e-mailed press release about the bill, which is time-stamped 8:44 a.m., April 30—some nine hours before the vote. “When you ask families what they need in order to stay in Baltimore, it is safe neighborhoods, good schools, job opportunities, and lower property taxes. At the same time we are making progress reducing crime and improving our schools, we have to do everything reasonable to reduce the property tax burden on homeowners. And we need to pay for it without slashing the budget for basic City services.”

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