Maryland House GOP Seeks 24% Income Tax Cut

Article excerpt

ANNAPOLIS - Maryland Republicans are trying to remake their image, pushing for a tax cut they say will benefit the middle class more than the wealthy.

The GOP caucus in the House of Delegates yesterday said it will fight for a four-year, 24 percent cut in the state income tax.

"Republicans in the past have always been harshly bashed for trying to help the rich. . . . [This is] kind of like a role reversal, with Republicans leading the charge to help middle-class families while the Democrats are trying to help the rich," said Delegate James Ports, Baltimore County Republican. "This helps middle-income families."

Two Democratic proposals would cut the income tax rate by 10 percent over three years.

The main difference comes in how the cut is achieved. Democrats favor cutting the overall tax rate from 5 percent of income to 4.5 percent.

The GOP, however, is pushing to leave the tax rate at 5 percent and double the personal exemption, something they say is more fair to poor and middle-class taxpayers.

Mr. Ports, the leading party spokesman on the issue, said this is similar to past Republican tax-cut proposals. The party is just taking the opportunity to highlight its plan in contrast to the Democratic proposals, he said.

But Ellen Sauerbrey, the 1994 Republican nominee for governor and a likely 1998 contender, said the tax-cut proposal on which she campaigned was different. Mrs. Sauerbrey's plan would have cut the top rate to 4 percent and increased the personal exemption.

"I think both aspects are important," she said.

Mr. Ports did not rule out an eventual rate cut as part of the four-year plan, but he played down its importance.

But administration officials said that increasing the personal exemption would not give tax relief to small businesses, the key to economic growth.

Because of federal tax law, small businesses generally pay personal income tax rather than corporate income tax. …