Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick and Carroll) has gone on a Twitter tear on the decision to rename the Washington Redskins something else. I guess it goes with his repeated Trumpian bashing of Montgomery and Frederick Counties for not opening more quickly. He also derides NBC4 for no longer using the former team name.
Notwithstanding his ritualized attack on liberals, I don’t see anything especially conservative in choosing to follow a leader who believes against all evidence that he can will the pandemic away and who embraces racist white identity politics as part of his desperate attempt to change the subject. One shouldn’t confuse a personality cult with ideology.
The Montgomery County Republican Party has alleged on its website and through blast email that the county council is “sneaking in” a tax hike. County GOP Chairman Alexander A. Bush wrote:
At a time when unemployment claims in Montgomery County have increased by 4,717% since the first week of March, our County Council has agreed with County Executive Elrich to give notice that they are “considering” an increase in the property tax rate “4.5% higher than the constant yield tax rate [which] will generate $62,978,926 in additional property tax revenues.”
Mr. Elrich admitted in his March 15th budget proposal that the current COVID-19 crisis will exacerbate the decline of income tax revenues in the County. But rather than tightening its belt, like families and private businesses must do, Mr. Elrich asked the County Council to drastically increase property taxes to make up the difference.
I was heartened by the March 16th response from eight of the councilmembers: “this is a time for cautious decision-making, not property tax increases.” And thus, I was surprised by the County Council’s notice on Thursday that they were, in fact, “considering” the full tax increase.
At a time when small businesses throughout the County are closing their doors and desperately hoping to survive long enough to reopen, this proposed property tax increase is obscene. This may be why the County Council has worked so hard to hide it from the public. Thursday’s legally-mandated notice in the print edition of the Washington Post is the only trace of it. The notice is not published online and the Council’s calendar entry for the April 21st meeting makes no mention of it. This notice was allegedly approved at the Council’s March 31st meeting, however (and possibly in violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act) the recording shows no discussion of this issue whatsoever. In fact, it was approved unanimously – and without any debate – as part of the “consent calendar,” which is reserved for uncontroversial matters.
Is the GOP right? Does this constitute “sneaking in” a tax hike?
It is true that the county executive proposed a property tax hike in his recommended budget that was promptly rejected by 8 council members. But that fact is actually irrelevant to the advertisement taken out in the Washington Post. The advertisement was mandated by state law regarding increases in property tax rates above the constant yield tax rate, which is defined as “the General Fund real property tax rate for the coming fiscal year that would generate the same amount of revenue that was generated during the current fiscal year.” The state law is extremely specific on the wording, style, placement and timing of the advertisement. It even requires that the county send the advertisement to the state to prove that it is following state law.
An excerpt from the county Republicans’ website.
The county’s standard practice is to exceed the constant yield tax rate but to restrict the growth in property tax collections to the rate of inflation, which is consistent with the county’s charter limit. Staying within the charter limit does not constitute a tax hike. In contrast to MoCo, most other Maryland counties lack charter limits on property taxes at all. In times of rising assessments, these other counties can leave their property tax rates constant and their collections can easily rise faster than inflation. (Let’s note that many of these counties are governed by Republicans!)
As to the GOP’s allegation that this notice was somehow hidden from the public, that is absolutely false. All of the details were contained in a staff memo posted in plain view on the council’s website. The memo includes the language of the newspaper advertisement which we reprint below.
This is perfectly consistent with past practice even when the executive is not proposing a tax hike. Here are the council resolutions on newspaper advertisements for constant yield tax rates from 2018 and 2019, when the county executive did not propose and the council did not pass property tax hikes.
And so there is no “sneaking” of any kind. The county followed state law on newspaper advertisements, a requirement that has nothing to do with decisions on tax increases. It would seem that the Montgomery County Republican Party has a problem with the county obeying state law.
There are two possibilities accounting for the Republicans’ argument: mendacity or ignorance. Neither is a good reason for why they should replace the Democrats in power.
Much has been said about the Maryland Republican Party sending out racist mailers targeting Congressional District 6 candidate Aruna Miller. The standard interpretation of this seems to be that the GOP sees Miller as a strong candidate and is trying to keep her out of the general election. Indeed, the Washington Post editorial board made that argument. But what if the Republicans are actually trying to help Miller instead?
The classic example of intervention in an opposing party’s primary is Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill’s promotion of conservative GOP Representative and eventual opponent Todd Akin. McCaskill spent $1.7 million on ads accusing Akin of being “too conservative” during his GOP primary, helping boost him past the rest of the field. And that’s not all – when Akin pulled a successful TV ad in favor of one that flopped, McCaskill schemed to have her pollster contact Akin’s campaign to persuade him to re-run the high-performing ad. Once Akin won his primary, McCaskill exploited his weaknesses to finish him off and get reelected.
Two “anti-Akin” ads by McCaskill and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Miller uses GOP racism to motivate her supporters.
Aruna Miller is doing really well in this campaign. She is raising lots of money, doing well at forums, attracting great endorsements from the Sierra Club and the teachers and is the most prominent woman running in a primary electorate that is roughly 60% female. But look at this race from the standpoint of the GOP. They know David Trone won an absolute majority of the vote in rural Frederick and Carroll Counties in the CD8 primary – the kind of areas that Republicans need to dominate in the sixth district. They know Trone could spend $10 million in a general election, something no other Democrat can do, and that would free up national Democratic money to go to other Congressional districts around the country. Most of all, Trone looks more like incumbent Congressman John Delaney than any other candidate – a center-left businessman who says he has created thousands of jobs. The GOP knows that kind of candidate can win in this district. Why would they want another one like Delaney? And if they don’t, why not help a rival win?
Maybe we’re reading too much into this but we don’t think the GOP is stupid. This kind of tactic can work. Just ask Claire McCaskill!
Maryland is a majority Democratic state. So one would expect that in financial competition between the two state parties, the Democrats would blow the Republicans away. That may have been the case a few years ago, but not anymore.
In Maryland, the two state parties have two campaign accounts each: a federal account used for promoting federal candidates and a state account used for promoting state and county candidates. Contributions to the federal account are regulated by federal election law while contributions to the state account are regulated by state election law. Both federal and state money can be used for purposes like paying staff, voter registration and voter turnout so there is a bit of flexibility in use. There are a few local party accounts but they are dwarfed by the state parties.
Below is the distribution of federal and state fundraising for the Democratic State Central Committee of Maryland. A few things stand out. First, because there are many Democratic federal elected officials, federal fundraising often exceeds state fundraising. Second, election year receipts are far greater than off-year receipts. Third, the presence of a Democratic Governor and/or a marquee federal race (like the 2006 U.S. Senate contest between Ben Cardin and Michael Steele) is good for fundraising. In 2017, the first year for current Democratic Chair Kathleen Matthews, the party exceeded its off-year pace in federal money but slightly lagged its typical state fundraising. Still, despite not having the Governor’s seat, the party did pretty well and finished 2017 with almost $800,000 in the bank.
Below is the same information for the Republican State Central Committee of Maryland. The GOP’s federal fundraising is often puny due to its lack of federal elected officials. (The 2006 race involving Michael Steele was a big exception.) But in state money, the Republicans do better than the Democrats when they have an incumbent Governor. They have led the Democrats in state fundraising four years in a row and exceeded them in total money raised in 2005, 2014 and 2017. Their total cash on hand at the end of 2017 was about a quarter of the Democrats.
The chart below shows GOP fundraising as a percentage of the Democrats. Again, notice how the last four years stand out in how the Republicans have exceeded the Democrats in state-level fundraising. The Democrats’ advantage in federal fundraising can be used for staff and voter activity but it cannot be used to directly promote the party’s gubernatorial nominee in the coming election.
Governor Larry Hogan will have an enormous financial advantage against whoever wins the Democratic nomination and the two parties could be at rough parity. If Hogan wins, it’s reasonable to assume that the GOP will continue to raise as much or more in state-level money as the Democrats during his second term. That would be a nice boost for the next generation of Republicans looking to succeed him.
There they go again. Building on the Maryland Republican Party’s fear mongering mass email over foreign election observers, Hogan Cheerleader Blog Red Maryland continues the scam by implying that election observers would be Russian and this is how the Russians interfere in our elections.
Of course, anyone who reads a newspaper should know this isn’t how the Russians tampered in 2016 and that fighting off observers is playing into Trump’s “fake news” scam by fighting off efforts to improve and to secure our elections.
The could have also bothered to search the web and found the 2016 OSCE election report. Among the over 400 observers were exactly two from the Russian Federation. In contrast, the United Kingdom and Spain, to take just a couple of examples, sent 25 apiece. You can read their final report, including recommendations, here.
Red Maryland bloggers may not say they don’t like Trump and Hogan is different. But they sure are his – and Larry Hogan’s – “useful idiots” as Lenin might say. Needless to say, Governor Hogan has remained #HoganSilent on MD GOP Trump tactics.
Can we please stop pretending that Larry Hogan is some sort of goo-goo Republican reformer?
Yesterday, the Maryland GOP sent out a hysterical email railing against – gasp – foreign election observers of American elections:
Do you think foreign nationals should be openly invited into our polling places on election day? Democratic Senators Kagan and Rosapepe think so.
For all the complaints about potential foreign involvement in U.S. elections, Maryland Democrats sure are trying to invite outside influences into our elections…
Now, they have introduced SB 190 that would give an international election observers the same rights as a U.S. citizen to watch over our elections for any polling place in the state that they see fit.
This bill gives foreign nationals the right to:
Go to polls unsupervised and move from poll-to-poll
Enter the polling place one-half hour before the polls open
Enter or be present at the polling pace at any time when the polls are open
Remain in the polling place until the completion of all tasks associated with the close of the polls
A police officer who is on duty at a polling place shall protect an international election observer in the discharge of the duties of the international election observe
The election judge shall designate reasonable times for international election observers to examine polling lists
SIGN AND SHARE the petition if you believe the Maryland Senate should vote AGAINST SB 190!
I don’t know who came up with this unhinged horror at a piece of legislation that should be so uncontroversial as to verge on banal. Foreign election observers are common in elections around the world. The U.S. sends observers to countries around the world as part of observation missions.
Indeed, the American government plays a major role in funding these initiatives through the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the International Republican Institute (IRI), National Democratic Institute (NDI), Organization of American States (OAS), and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). All but the last are based in Washington.
Beyond the creepy weirdness of attempting to whip voters up over people observing – a word that specifically excludes any participatory role – our elections, this is right out of the Trump playbook because of (1) its xenophobic attack on foreigners as somehow inherently nefarious, and (2) being resistant to any effort to improve the electoral process whatsoever.
Trump is impervious to protecting our elections from proven Russian interference in our elections because it helps Republicans. (Ronald Reagan must be rolling over in his grave.) Under Larry Hogan, the Maryland GOP shows similar hostility to the most mild effort to improve our democracy in their effort to whip up hate about a bunch of foreign election experts who will come here, observe elections, and write a tempered report with a few suggestions for improvement.
The Governor has just lost what little credibility as a reformer he had. He is willing to speak out against redistricting in Maryland, because he thinks it will benefit his party, but totally silent on Republican efforts to protect it north of the Mason-Dixon and south of the Potomac.
Yet he found time to travel to Virginia to support the odious Ed Gillespie in his effort to become governor using hateful rhetoric and scaremongering. Despite Gillespie’s flop, Hogan apparently decided to import Gillespie-type tactics.
If Larry Hogan’s Republicans were remotely reasonable, they would never publish something like this. The Governor needs to repudiate it immediately and replace the people in the Maryland GOP who came up with this piece of tripe.
In a Facebook post in the wake of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore’s defeat, a Maryland GOP Delegate is questioning those who have criticized Moore’s history with teenage girls and the actions of other sexual harassers. That history was key to Moore’s loss.
I’ve not said a word about the Alabama Senate election or the swirling world of accusations, admissions, rumors and varying degrees of bad behavior by men– from the clearly criminal to the truly appalling to the unambiguous acts of poor taste to the fairly innocuous and easily overblown. I think that trying to litigate in the court of public opinion what did or did not happen 20, 30, 40 or more years ago in momentary, fleeting encounters or relationships and then view those allegations through the light of modern prism, as opposed to the conventions and norms of the time in which they occurred, is fraught with danger, although clearly rape, physical sexual assault, and pervasive, consistent, degrading sexual harassment have never been and never could be acceptable under any circumstances at any time by anyone.
Buckel went on to praise the policies of the Trump administration while bashing Steve Bannon, Moore and other GOP candidates.
In a comment later on his post, Buckel said, “But who knows – While girls Roy Moore stopped by a mall to say hi to 40 years ago are national figures, 99.9% of Americans have no idea who Doug Jones is and chances are his senatorial career will be exceedingly brief.”
Right now, there is a national debate going on about differing degrees of sexual misconduct and what levels of punishment are appropriate. That debate will be playing out for a while before it is settled – IF it’s settled. But the allegations about Moore’s behavior with teenage girls are far outside the boundaries of any gray areas, past or present. He was not “saying hi” as Buckel stated above. Elected officials who appear to make excuses for the likes of Moore should beware the voters next November.
Much has been written about the tax bills passed by the U.S. House and Senate in recent weeks. Overall, bothbillsoffer small tax cuts to the poor, modest ones to the middle class and large cuts to the wealthy and corporations. But in order to partially offset the massive tax cuts going to those at the top, the bills do something else.
They discriminate against taxpayers in Maryland.
Why do they do that? One key feature of both bills is that they abolish the ability of individuals to deduct state and local income taxes from their federal incomes. (Property tax deductions would still be allowed up to $10,000.) According to IRS data for Tax Year 2015, U.S. federal taxpayers deducted a total of $334 billion of state and local income taxes from their incomes, more than the amounts they deducted for mortgage interest ($278 billion), charitable contributions ($222 billion), real estate taxes ($187 billion) and state and local sales taxes ($17 billion). Abolishing the state and local income tax deduction hits people who itemize their deductions and pay significant amounts of state and local income taxes. Marylanders are targeted on both those measures.
According to the above IRS data, 46% of Marylanders itemized their deductions on their federal tax returns in 2015. That’s the highest rate in the country, far surpassing the national rate of 30% and red states like Arkansas (22%), Mississippi (23%), Louisiana (23%), Texas (24%), Alabama (26%), South Carolina (27%) and Georgia (33%).
State and Local Income Tax Deductions
In terms of state and local income tax deductions per return (including non-itemized returns), Marylanders ranked fifth in the nation at $4,217 per return. Maryland trailed New York, D.C., Connecticut and California. Virginia ranked tenth, indicating that the abolition of this deduction will hit the Washington, D.C. metro area particularly hard. The states least impacted are mostly red states and those with little or no income taxes.
Inside Maryland, the impact will be felt differently across the state. That’s because residents of some jurisdictions pay much more in state and local income taxes than others. According to 2015 income tax data from the Comptroller, MoCo and Howard County residents pay by far the most state and local income taxes in Maryland. Residents of many parts of Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore pay the least.
Consider this. If you itemize your deductions, are paying $5,000 in state and local income taxes – roughly the average in Maryland – and your effective federal income tax rate is 15%, you will owe $750 more to Uncle Sam because of the abolition of the state and local income tax deduction.
Does that mean you will owe more federal taxes overall? That depends. If you are wealthy, you could get huge offsetting cuts because of changes to the top income tax brackets and tax cuts on pass-through income from your businesses. If you are poor or middle class, you could benefit from an increase in the standard deduction and an increase in the child credit, but that could be offset by an elimination of the personal exemption. An analysis of the Senate bill two weeks ago by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found almost all of the tax benefits from that bill going to the top quintile of Maryland taxpayers. Changes prior to the Senate floor vote and in conference committee may tweak the details but not the overall impact. And it could get worse: wealthy Republican donors are already complaining that their tax cuts are not big enough.
Maryland Republican Party Secretary Mark Uncapher is challenging Montgomery County Party Chairman Dick Jurgena. Red Maryland reports and gives their anti-Jurgena spin on the race:
The current Montgomery GOP Chairman, Dick Jurgena, has had a controversial year as Chairman. He elevated Amie Hoeber to a prominent fundraising position and also publicly attacked Governor Hogan and other Congressional Republicans.
Uncapher, a former MoCo party chair, leveled his own attacks on Jurgena:
[I]nstead of focusing on MCGOP’s party building responsibilities, too much time and resources have been frittered away this past year on gadfly advocacy and fringe issues.
Just three months ago, the MCGOP’s Executive Committee voted to reverse the decision of Dick Jurgena and Ann Hingston gutting our participation in the Nation Builder/ Digital Toolkit data management program that the Hogan campaign and the Maryland Republican Party had asked us to use. . .
So far, this year only about a dozen new people have completed our monthly precinct training program. With over 250 precincts, that is not enough to replace the natural attrition from people dropping out, let alone fill our previously existing vacancies. . .
We must end this “closed meeting, private club” approach that has led to MCGOP’s failure to recruit new blood into the party. Closed meetings have meant that hundreds of enthusiastic Trump Montgomery volunteers were never welcomed into our party this year. We need break out of a mindset that Republicans will only be competitive in the highest income zip codes of Bethesda and Potomac, especially since that’s not where either Trump or Hogan have done the best in our county.
Uncapher’s capacity to engage in doublethink is perfect for the Trump administration. First, Republicans are not competitive in Bethesda or Potomac, as a glance at the District 16 election results shows clearly.
Even a strong, moderate state legislative candidate like Rose Li could only make so much headway. Trump received a whopping 21% of the vote in District 16. Apparently, this is what passes for “competitive” to Maryland Republicans.
Equally weird is his notion that there are legions of enthusiastic Trump supporters waiting to be welcomed into the party. Trump received less than 20% of the vote in Montgomery – an impressive seven points less than Mitt Romney in 2012.
So Andy Harris supports wine and cheese along with face time with him for Szeliga donors but no water or electricity for Puerto Rico. Maybe they sent the leftovers to PR? That chardonnary and brie could save lives!