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Maryland lawmakers debate tax and fee package. Some Democrats worry it may cost party the US Senate

staticwire | April 3, 2024
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (CNN) – Maryland’s legislative push for hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and fees has sparked concern among Democrats that the package could potentially boost the campaign of Republican former Governor Larry Hogan for U.S. Senate, ultimately endangering the party’s already-slim majority in the Senate.

The urgency for federal support to rebuild Baltimore’s collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge has further heightened the debate over the proposed tax and fee increases in the state legislature.

Hogan, who has been considered the Republican Party’s best chance in Maryland’s Senate race in decades, gained popularity by criticizing tax hikes and ultimately winning the gubernatorial race in 2014. His opposition to tax increases has resonated with the tax-weary electorate in the state, making him a formidable opponent, especially at a time when Democrats hold a narrow 51-49 majority in the U.S. Senate.

Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Democrat from Baltimore, acknowledged the potential impact of Hogan’s political success in the state, citing lessons learned from Hogan’s victories in 2014 and 2018. Hogan, renowned for lowering tolls statewide in 2015, wasted no time in condemning the revenue package proposed in the legislature, triggering a budget showdown between the state chambers.

Despite the historically blue tilt of Maryland, recent polls have shown Hogan to be a highly popular figure in the state, making the Senate race unusually competitive. However, most Maryland voters still lean towards supporting a Democratic candidate for Senate, according to recent surveys.

Democratic leaders in Maryland are grappling with the dilemma of whether to push forward with the proposed tax and fee increases now to address transportation and education funding issues or delay the decision to avoid potential political backlash. Del. Ben Barnes, a Democrat heading the Maryland House Appropriations Committee, emphasized the urgency of addressing transportation funding problems but also questioned why the legislature should rush into such decisions.

While Maryland Governor Wes Moore, a Democrat, submitted a balanced $63 billion budget without tax increases for the upcoming fiscal year, the state Senate has remained divided on the budget proposal. Hogan’s neglect of the Transportation Trust Fund during his tenure as governor has further complicated the funding discussions in the legislature.

With less than a week left in the session, negotiations between the two chambers are ongoing, with the Senate showing reluctance towards the proposed tax increases. Moore has extended the session by 10 days if needed to reach a compromise before the scheduled adjournment.

The urgency to address Maryland’s transportation funding crisis, especially in the wake of the recent bridge collapse, has underscored the importance of maintaining a Democratic majority in the Senate, according to Ferguson.

“This is about the long-term future of the state, and that is the political reality that we have to operate within,” Ferguson said.

As the debate continues in the Maryland legislature, the fate of the proposed tax and fee increases remains uncertain, with implications reaching far beyond the state’s borders into the race for the U.S. Senate and the balance of power in Washington.

Written by staticwire

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