The Montgomery County Council unanimously overrode County Executive Marc Elrich’s veto of their bill to lower impact taxes on development in wide areas around public transit.
The press releases title sets the tone with the strange claim that the override reaffirms the Council’s “commitment to investing in Montgomery County’s future.” Except that by reducing the impact taxes collected, the county will now have less money to invest in school buildings and other capital projects.
It’s a commitment to disinvesting in public infrastructure. The language is especially telling because Democrats normally tout public spending as investment, but they’ve adopted Republican-style talking points on cutting taxes. Knowing this is the case, the press release is at pains to hide just how much they’ve reduced taxes on developers. It just says that the new tax rate will “more accurately” reflect the actual cost of school facilities.
The individual comments are little better. Sponsor Hans Riemer attacks Elrich because that is what he does. He also lauds the policy as “balanc[ing] the competing needs to address school enrollment” and “make our transportation system safer.” Except lowering impact taxes that help build new school buildings hurts rather than helps schools. I imagine this also reflects Hans’s magical thinking that everyone wants to live near transit but that they won’t have many kids—somehow families with kids don’t need housing too.
Councilmember Nancy Navarro refers to this legislation as “bold” which is the same word she used previously for lauding her support for the last tax cut on devleopers.
Overclaiming that this will lead to more “affordable housing” and “environmental sustainability,” Councilmember Andrew Friedson says the bill makes the county “more attractive to new businesses.” Once again, he conflates development with business as the Council continues to do nothing to attract the non-development related business it needs.
There is no requirement for more affordable housing as a share of new development. Impact taxes have little impact on the overall cost relative to demand and land prices, so the major impact will not be a blossoming of housing or a reduction in its price, but further losses to the county treasury to build schools.
All of Hans Riemer’s many other like-minded bills have similarly failed to do much to bring affordable housing to the county. This one won’t either. It might, however, result in more campaign contributions from developers to the incumbent councilmembers and their allies.
Evan Glass touts how hard the Council worked on the new policy—they did spend a lot of time on it—and that it reflects the Council’s commitment to “inclusivity and diversity.” No doubt the Council believes that to be true. But progressive verbiage doesn’t alter the hard fact that, directly at odds with this claim, the county will deepen the already acute shortfall in funds for public school buildings to serve its diverse student population.
“Council Assures More Portables in MCPS’s Future” would have been a good alternative title for the press release.