“Dear Next Contestant” …Steve Schuh’s 3% Solution

Dear Next Contestant –

Steve Schuh keeps talking about how he’s going to lower property taxes. And who doesn’t want lower taxes? He believes that’s somehow going to magically make our county more competitive with other counties when it comes to attracting new businesses and the jobs they’ll bring with them. Two things…

One is that his plan to lower taxes depends upon growth in total county revenues of $70 million next year when the county isn’t expecting more than $40 to $50 million. What does Mr. Schuh know that the county budget office doesn’t? Or is he just making promises to get elected that he has no intention of keeping?

The other comment is that I went on line and found data showing per person local taxes in each of our counties and Baltimore City. Don’t you just love the Internet? I compared that data to personal income in each of counties and Baltimore. (And to think I thought that research seminar I took senior year was a waste of time.)

What I found was that, if you look at the ratio of local taxes to personal income, our county is ranked only 20th in the state. We’re third in the state by just per capita income, but twentieth by local taxes as a percent of per capita income. Twentieth out of 24 counties and Baltimore City. People in 19 of our 24 counties are paying more of their income in local taxes than we are.

It’s a rough measure, but good enough for me to wonder out loud: If we’re only 20th in the state, and Mr. Schuh is right about how lowering taxes will attract people and businesses, why isn’t everybody leaving the top 19 counties and moving here already?

The answer is probably because that’s not how it works. My guess would be that people prefer Howard and Montgomery counties, not because they pay less taxes than we do, because they don’t, but because they’ve done more with the taxes they collect to improve their schools and other public services.

So Mr. Schuh wants to lower our taxes? So we can invest even less in our schools, police, fire department, health services, etc.? Mr. Schuh’s slogan on his signs is “People Before Politics.” Really? I’m not so sure.

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