Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Fiscally Conservative Democrat?

Posted by David Keelan on Monday, July 31, 2006

While going door-to-door a pair of Republicans encountered a senior citizen of democratic persuasion who claimed that Courtney Watson had previously knocked on his door and portrayed herself as a fiscally conservative democrat who would not support raising taxes.

Well, I wasn’t there so I have no way of confirming the conversation.  However, let me remind the reader of past tax increases in Howard County and how Board of Education member (now County Council District 1 candidate) Courtney Watson stood on those tax issues:

Then… 

In 2004 and 2005 Howard County Executive James N. Robey tried to generate more school construction money from a dedicated tax on new homes.  He succeeded:

The added money is vitally important, said Courtney Watson, chairman of the county school board. “It will enable us to fund another $40 million this year [fiscal 2005] and another $18 to $20 million” beyond that.

I think she references this on her website in the following manner but avoids the term “tranfer tax” which is a dedicated source of school funding and a tax increase.  What she and Jim Robey got was a surcharge on square footage of new construction and if I recall the State delegation put a cap on what they could raise:

Encourage the state delegation to develop a dedicated source of school construction funding that will sustain future construction needs and maintenance requirements of our aging buildings.

In 2005 she said Robey should spend County surplus revenues on the school while fiscally conservative County Council members suggested Robey should return the money back to tax payers in future years.  Granted if you have surplus funds in hand you have to spend it – no alternative.  However, at the time she didn’t mention that we should figure a way to deliver future surpluses back to the taxpayers.  Instead she said:

Watson said she would prefer Robey allocate some or all of the $14 million to building and fixing schools. This month, the board approved a $99.9 million capital budget for the coming fiscal year, which awaits an OK from Robey and the County Council.

Courtney Watson also supported charging fees for using school fields.  I am a tax payer and don’t want to pay additional fees to use fields I am already paying for:

In 2004/2005 School officials had sought the authority to charge for using school fields as a way of relieving their financial burden for maintaining the fields. They argued that constant use of the fields, coupled with a tight budget, has left many fields in poor condition.

The Superindent proposes a budget and the BoE has to approve the budget.  The BoE has to balance the Superindent’s request with what the County Executive is willing to propose to the County Council.  It is a difficult balancing act.  By no means am I suggesting it is an easy job.  The BoE has had to cut the Superindent’s budgets many times in order to comply with the fiscal realities as presented by the County Executive.  I am happy to admit that they have done a pretty good job.

I will go even further and say that Courtney Watson has (for the most part) done a good job of bringing fiscal accountability to the school system and making sure they justify the budget. 

Her website states this:

Hold the Board of Education responsible for regular review of programs being funded by local tax dollars.  Identify quickly those programs that are working and recycle funding for those that are not producing results.

I wrote about this twice before here and here.  The Chancery SMS is not working.  It is creating havoc and I haven’t heard a word from her on this and this was approved during her tenure.  Employees are livid and dumbfounded that this could happen.

She needs to provide leadership on the current school system software fiasco.  That is not a very good example of overseeing the implementation of the budget or operations.

…and now.

When it comes to finding new revenue sources (raising fees and taxes) I have never heard Courtney Watson say enough is enough. 

Fiscal accountability doesn’t mean being fiscally conservative.  It only means that politicians will make sure they spend your increasing tax dollars but ensure that it isn’t wasted.

A fiscal conservative will ensure that taxpayers are not overtaxed.  They will not seek new sources of revenue to fund every special interest group that comes along.  They will ensure that we have a debt we can manage.  It means protecting property rights (in this case our tax dollars) by ensuring a just and proportioned tax burden.

Her web site says today:

Explore legislation that would allow a portion of a tax surplus to be returned to citizens instead of spent by county government.

Great.  Does that mean she supports income and property tax cuts?  That is the only legislation we need and it is done during the budget process.  Their are restriction on the use of current surplus funds.  However, a 2/3 majority of the County Council can modify those restricts which could include, for example, a tax rebate.  We need something more concrete than explore.  How much of a tax rebate?  All $20 million plus?

Ironically her website justifies the current tax burden on Howard County residents and leads to doubt that she would seek tax cuts or a return of surplus tax dollars to taxpayers.  If you really wanted to do that why make this following point?

Howard County’s income tax is set at the maximum amount allowed by state law, but the overall tax burden including fees and property taxes falls at about the middle of other counties in the state. 

Her website also states:

Assessments of your property are done every three years and despite the increase in your home value, the assessed value on which you pay property taxes is capped at 5% a year?

Thanks for the favor.  Increased property values and assessments won’t trigger 20% tax increases all at once.  They will limit them to 5% and once they are fully phased in at 20% they come back and reassess the value of your proprty again. Their is a way to balance the property tax burden on taxpayers and it won’t cost the county a cent.  Courtney, speak with Greg Fox and Tony Salazar.  They has a great idea and it won’t cost the County a penny.

Courtney Watson will have to do more to convince me that she is fiscally conservative.

——————

BTW a blast from the past I couldn’t resist.  It is relevant and goes to show that the BoE job isn’t easy.

In researching this I was reminded of a particularly tough year when the BoE was struggling with O’Rourke’s 2004 capital budget.

Watson go four calls from Ken Ulman during budget meetings.  When she finally returned his call he repaid the courtesy by cursing her out.  Article here.

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8 Responses to “Fiscally Conservative Democrat?”

  1. Bubba said

    WOW Queen Courtney starts getting the attention she deserves! Tax and Waste does not give the Queen the ability to fudge to Howard Seniors who are concerned about their tax burdens….

  2. Jen said

    Okay, evil twin number 2. Are you implying that Watson is regal? smart? or gay with your “Queen” comment? Do you mean it in a kind an beneficial way… or are you being condescending, sexist or mean spirited? Can you play nicely, or can you only post nasty evil posts like Molly? Do seniors pay transfer taxes? I don’t think so- or if they do – they are seniors that can afford to pay them. Do you understand the difference between the two taxes. If not I can explain them. If you do than you are purposely obfuscating the issue. A typical ploy for individuals who have nothing of substance to add to any discussion. Shall I explain the difference to you so you can speak more intelligently… or to you prefer being cranky, in general? Where is your nice twin?

  3. Bubba said

    Jen –
    See earlier post for apology – I pay taxes and know all too many overburdened Howard County Taxpayers, especially those who can’t afford our overpriced County Schools and are forced to downsize – please explain to me how seniors avoid the tax when they sell and move out of the County or into a smaller home? I just love a lecture from someone who has never posted on this blog site before….Inquiring minds want a lecture, please in 1000 words or less explain how seniors don’t pay taxes (while reading my post you’ll see I didn’t limit it to transfer taxes)

    Bubba

  4. Bubba said

    David,
    In answer to your post title, Fiscally Conservative Democrats are offically endangered in Maryland. Governor Spendenning and his ilk created the new spend and tax model for all to follow. So in my opinion Howard County Democrats haven’t proposed, passed or even talked about a tax increase they didn’t like (and enact)….See Robey, Jim “King Tax” of Howard County for more…

    Bubba

  5. hocomd said

    Jen/Molly,

    Who really cares you could really be Courtney Watson for all I know.

    Bubba and David are not the same person.

    “I know Bubba, and I can assure you I am no Bubba.”

    You can search this blog and you will note that Bubba has been commenting on the blog for months and once took a swipe at me.

    Try this link to find other BUBBA COMMENTS on this blog

    IP addresses are not the same as domains (you do know that).

    Bubba’s IP: 71.248.11.78
    Keelan’s IP: 72.81.217.198

    Jen’s IP: 69.243.56.53
    Molly’s IP: 69.243.56.53

    Good night.

  6. hocomd said

    Seniors don’t pay tranfer taxes. Their is no basis in reality for that statement. I can’t believe you said that. For those who do pay it they can afford it. I can’t believe you said that either. Just who’s money is it? Yours? The Government’s? No it belongs to them and keep your grubby hands off of it. Don’t you get it?

  7. Bubba said

    David,
    Nice job detecting the regal nature of the post “Let them pay taxes so that I can build my empire”! And I am no David Keelan! I’M BUBBA hear me?

    Bubba

  8. TY said

    It doesn’t matter who you voted for. You need to know that some of the criteria regarding Universal Healthcare have come out. They include:

    • dialysis will stop for people at age 66 (this plan will KILL ME)
    • no heart bypass operations will be done for anyone over 70 years of age
    • businesses refusing this healthcare will be fined
    • 148 million Americans will lose their present care
    • the government will ration who will get healthcare and when
    • the president and congress are exempt and will not take this plan, they will keep their present plan, which is excellent. (if this plan is so great, why don’t they want it?)
    • in addition, they say that 47 million Americans are w/out healthcare. That is a LIE:
    o 43% (20 million) of them qualify but have not applied for medical coverage
    o ~ 15-20 million are illegal (they are not Americans)
    o ~ 8-11 million Americans are w/out insurance NOT 47 million
    We need good health care, but this one is not it.
    I don’t know about you but I am on dialysis and this plan will KILL ME. Please help me and stop this disgusting plan.

    This is not a joke!
    Thank you for saving my life.

    Ty

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