Maryland Governor Pitches $1 Billion 'Aspirational' Tax Cut to Win Over Retirees -- Again

by | September 5, 2018

By Luke Broadwater

On the campaign trail, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan often talks about how he wants lower taxes for retirees -- including exempting 100 percent of retirement income from Maryland taxes.

The Republican governor pitched a similar proposal to senior voters when he was running four years ago, including at a forum at the Charlestown retirement community in Catonsville where he said: "Our plan -- and we can't do it immediately -- will be to completely eliminate state income taxes for pensions and retirement income."

But the idea has not happened in his first term.

Now Hogan is making the pitch again. He rolled out the pledge in August while visiting Leisure World in Silver Spring, the massive senior housing complex where voting turnout has historically been among the highest in the state.

"We're not going to stop fighting for you until we exempt 100 percent of your retirement income from Maryland state taxes," Hogan said to loud applause, according to Bethesda Beat.

Hogan has enacted tax cuts on the retirement income of veterans and law enforcement officers.

But a blanket exemption for retirees has proved too costly.

Gov. Larry Hogan marked Veterans Appreciation Month on Thursday by renewing his call for elimination of state income taxes on Maryland's military retirees.

At a State House news conference, Hogan contended that such a move is needed to keep the state's military retirees from moving to states that...

When Republicans introduced the plan in the General Assembly in 2014 it died in committee after the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services said it would deprive the state of more than $1 billion of revenue per year.

Asked about whether the governor planned to push for the proposal again, Hogan's campaign called the governor's comments an "aspirational" goal that can't be accomplished quickly.

"Gov. Hogan has consistently stated that, over time, he wants to eliminate retirement taxes, and that will require continuing to keep spending under control," Hogan campaign spokesman Scott Sloofman said. "He has taken targeted steps to chip away at retirement taxes by exempting the first $15,000 of retirement income from state taxes for veterans, correctional officers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, rescue, and emergency personnel. And as our budget situation continues to improve he expects to make more progress."

Sloofman criticized Hogan's Democratic opponent Ben Jealous, who has proposed even more expensive initiatives without clear funding streams, such as a single-payer health care system.

Jealous spokesman Steven Hershkowitz said Hogan, once again, is making promises he can't fulfill without busting the budget.

"Maryland could certainly be a more affordable place to live for seniors, but making the same broken promise from four years ago -- one that would require billions of dollars of cuts in education and health care -- is not the way to do it," Hershkowitz said.

He added that Hogan hasn't done enough to stop seniors' prescription drug prices from rising under his watch.

"If Larry Hogan really wants to make it easier for seniors to pay their bills," Hershkowitz said, "he should stop taking contributions from pharmaceutical corporations and start taking action to bring down prescription drug prices."

(c)2018 The Baltimore Sun