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STATE NEWS O’Malley to Rock 1st River Concert

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aryland Governor Martin O’Malley will kick off the 11th annual River Concert Series at St. Mary’s College of Maryland on June 19, when is band, “O’Malley’s March, takes the stage as part of the celebration of Maryland’s 375th birthday. The band will play some Celtic rock songs written by O’Malley. The River Concert Series, which features the Chesapeake Orchestra under the musical direction of Jeffrey Silberschlag, runs on Friday evenings, from June 19 through July 31, as well as on Saturday, June 20. The concerts are free and open to the public, and picnic baskets are welcome. For a complete series schedule, visit the River Concert Series web site at www.smcm. edu/rcs. Laurie White Photo (CNS)

Drop in Millionaire Tax Filings Raises Eyebrows

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aryland tax returns filed by April 30 for taxable income over $1 million dropped nearly a third this year, according to a recent comptroller’s report. Elected officials and commerce insiders say that the downturn in the general economy could be one reason that the number of millionaires filing in Maryland has dropped from about 3,000 to around 2,000, but they suspect something else is afoot. Since the General Assembly passed a measure in 2008 to tax millionaires to raise funds to plug holes in the budget, they say they have expected a backlash from Maryland’s wealthiest citizens. They fear that time has come. “There’s no way to explain [away] one third of the high-end filers simply due to the economy,” said House Minority Leader Del. Anthony O’Donnell (RDist. 29C). “They’re either shielding their income or leaving.” Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), in a May 13 letter to the legislative leadership, said that by October, when the state would have a more complete fiscal picture taking into account extensions, things would not look much better. “It seems reasonable to assume, particularly given the sharp drop in final payments, that there will be a substantial decline in the number of returns with taxable income over $1 million and a substantial decline in the income reported on those returns when complete results are in,” Franchot wrote. The 2008 law that instituted the latest top

tax rate for millionaires, Senate Bill 46, put those earning any more than $1 million in a 6.25 percent tax bracket, while those at $1 million down to $500,001 pay at the previous highest rate of 5.5 percent. Though designed to increase revenue, the latest figures show that the law has so far has not delivered, with final payments as of April for income tax in general dropping by $331 million. Overall general fund revenues as of April sit at $1.57 billion, according to comptroller figures. That’s down 16.6 percent from the same time last year. The millionaire surcharge law will remain in effect through 2010. Del. John Wood (D-Dist. 29A) said that millionaires have the means to move their residences to tax friendlier states. “It’s only a few miles across the Potomac River into Virginia or into Pennsylvania,” Wood said, adding that some people who are not so wealthy but who have retired with a nest egg have decided to establish primary residence in a state like Florida. “There are a lot of people who do it to avoid the Maryland taxes,” Wood said. “They’re just everyday people.” Wood said that the legislature might pass along expenses to the counties next year to make up for the income tax shortfall. “Next year I have the gut feeling they’ll pass it on to the counties so the state won’t have to raise taxes, but the counties will,” Wood said. “And that’s not right; we’re passing the buck.” BY GUY LEONARD (CT)

Poaching Law Strengthened

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NNAPOLIS - Governor Martin O’Malley recently signed three new bills into law which will impose more serious penalties for fishing law violations in Maryland. “Poaching and other illegal fishing activity amounts to stealing the valuable natural resources that are critical to maintaining healthy rivers and bays. This legislation establishes much needed, more timely and consequential penalties that are necessary to prevent theft from and harm to the resources we hold in the public trust,” O’Malley said in a press release. House Bill 1355 will allow DNR to apply a reasonable commercial license suspension or revocation when someone is convicted of violating a commercial fishing law. Prior to enactment of this legislation, DNR could not suspend a commercial fishing license unless an individual incurred multiple convictions over two to five years. The bill does away with the need to first consider the frequency of convictions, as well as the need to first consider multiple convictions before a suspension or revocation can take place. This will provide a more serious consequence for fishing law violators, whose current penalty is generally a minimal fine, which in most cases is not a sufficient deterrent. House Bill 1419 was borne from recommendations of the Task Force on Fisheries Management. The bill will increase

Thursday, June 4, 2009

the maximum allowable fine upon conviction from $500 to $1,000 for a first offense and from $1,000 to $2,000 for a second or subsequent violation of fisheries law. These fines have not been increased since their adoption in 1973. The bill also allows the DNR to impose restitution or other monetary penalties on a person convicted of violating certain fisheries laws and authorizes the DNR to establish a list of monetary and ecological values for aquatic species. Restitution paid will be used for replacement, habitat management, or enforcement programs for fish or protected species. Senate Bill 164 was also developed from recommendations of the Task Force on Fisheries Management. This legislation gives DNR consistent authority to suspend recreational fishing privileges across both tidal and non-tidal waters. A clearer, more consistent process will promote compliance with fishing regulations, give DNR greater enforcement tools and send a clear message to the public about the process of fishing license suspension. “Violating the law is a crime and should be treated as such, whether the theft is bushels of oysters or blue crabs or a television or stereo,” said DNR Secretary John Griffin. “The enactment of these bills provides an additional measure of protection to our aquatic resources by discouraging violators who would intentionally abuse them.”

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Southern Calvert Gazette -- June 4, 2009