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March 24, 2009

When a Tax Cut Isnít

Farrell Keough

What is truth in politics? Is it something black and white; or are there varying degrees of gradation? Obviously it is the latter. Hence the need to research and understand what is stated versus what the realities behind the action are.


A simple example is tax cuts. What truly constitutes a tax cut? The answer is simple: less money is taken from your wallet for a government service or requirement.


But, when a politician declares they cut taxes, are the facts behind that action truth or only partial truth? For instance, when a state elected official declares they will not raise your taxes and vote in that manner, what might be the result?


We have recently seen such an action, so let’s use that as an example. One of the Frederick County delegation to the General Assembly, Galen Clagett, was appointed as chairman of a House subcommittee involved with budget cuts to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections.


“It’s under-funded by about $77 million for optimal staffing conditions. The budget proposal requires the agency to cut 400 vacant positions out of 837 in the department, which will have about 11,250 regular positions, the lowest number since 2005,” reported the Cumberland Times-News in a February 21, 2009, article from the Associated Press.


While you may agree or disagree with the cuts proposed, they are actual cuts to positions in an attempt to save taxpayers money. But, what only received scant attention was another method to imply a tax cut by “…shifting a portion of the cost of Circuit Court law clerks to the counties.”


Did you catch that last quote? The state will not be taking our money for a portion of these law clerks costs, instead, these costs will be shifted to the counties. That is not a tax cut, that is a tax burden shift. Long and short, we still pay the tax to support Circuit Court law clerk costs – only now it will go to the county, not the state.


So, when you hear a politician touting their anti-tax stance, keep in mind that often that position only leads to shifting the burden from one set of tax payers to another – no actual tax cut. Unless politicians offer a viable alternative rather than just voting “No,” they likely may not be saving the taxpayer money, but only padding their political portfolio.


Cumberland Times News: State public safety department to lose 400 vacant jobs [AP]


Frederick News Post : Clagett proposal trims budget by $100M Meg Tully


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