2019 One State, One Rate!

A revenue-neutral proposal to end Maryland’s subsidy of rich jurisdictions by poor jurisdictions through the property tax system

by Bill Marker, March 2019

Click here for a pdf of the proposal

The State of Maryland’s Real Property Tax System allows each county and Baltimore City to set its own tax rate. Thus a Marylander living in Talbot County pays only $1,212 in taxes on a $200,000 home, while a Marylander living in Baltimore City pays $4,496 on a $200,000 home.

Put another way, a resident of Talbot County pays the same taxes on a $742,000 house as a Baltimore City resident pays on a $200,000 house. This reverse Robin Hood scheme unreasonably transfers resources from poor folks to rich folks.

It can be argued that a tax system should tax all people equally or that wealth should be transferred from rich to poor. It cannot, however, be reasonably argued that a tax system should cause the poor to subsidize the rich, and yet that is exactly what the current Maryland tax system does.

Read more2019 One State, One Rate!

2018 Gubernatorial Survey

Bill Marker sent this Survey to most 2018 Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates.

Download a printable copy of the 2018 Gubernatorial Survey

1) One State, One Rate! Property Tax:

Maryland’s property tax system subsidizes rich counties over poorer jurisdictions, harming over 60% of Marylanders, as documented in the enclosed Proposal. State Senator Bill Ferguson has stated:“As Maryland continues to struggle with a tax framework that poorly matches today’s economy, we need to consider new ways of handling our taxable base in the State. The State Constitution requires a uniform tax of property across Maryland,yet each jurisdiction in Maryland employs a different rate. Rethinking our property wealth in Maryland with frameworks like One State One Rate is the right approach to reforming our tax system to be more equitable, efficient, and effective.”The One State, One Rate! Proposal should be adopted.

2) Education:

Schools test for reading and mathematics. Many advocates push for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), or add Arts (STEAM).Government/Civics and History education is as important as these other subjects.

3) Representation for Southern Baltimore:

Each Baltimore City Legislative District has one senator, three delegates, and seven members of the Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee, a total of 11 positions. The residents of Baltimore City Council District 10, split among 3 different Legislative Districts, total39% of an average Legislative District. This should indicate we could boast at least four senators, delegates or members. Yet as of September 2017 no senator, delegate, or central committee member lived in the 10thCouncil District.With the possible exclusion of Precinct 20-09:The post-2020 census General Assembly redistricting should put all of Baltimore City Council District 10 in one Legislative District.

4) Supporting State Employees:

From my experience as a Charter Specialist with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation, the Hogan Administration deals very negatively with its employees. The Director of the agency yelled at his employees, repeatedly was asked to apologize yet refused, and was rewarded by promotion to the Governor’s staff. Employees were denied their chosen representation to the National AFT Convention in violation of the Memorandum of Understanding, as eventually determined by the Department of Budget and Management. An illegal sick leave policy was foisted on employees until their unions intervened. Management has not been required to learn what the employees do, and vacancies have been left unfilled.State Employee Managers should be supportive of front line employees. In particular, a substantial part of the Lt. Governor’s time should be spent meeting with and listening to front line employees at their worksite.

5) Grassroots Campaign:

The 2014 Brown campaign was terrible. For example, I requested 1500 pieces of literature to distribute to doors in Pigtown but did not get them. Eventually I went to the Baltimore City office and liberated 300 pieces, which I did distribute.Our General Election campaign should be very different than the 2014 campaign. In particular, it should call for and support grassroot efforts.

6) Lt. Governor Selection:

Maryland should reconsider the Lt. Governor selection process, so that someone who fails to win the Gubernatorial nomination could be nominated for Lt. Governor.

2016 Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire

Bill Marker sent this Questionnaire to
party-affiliated Baltimore Mayoral Candidates in 2016.
Commenting on the Questionnaire,
journalist Fraser Smith called Bill Something of a Super Citizen.

1) Fair Property Taxation: One major problem facing Baltimore City is our high property tax rate. Our rate is so high because the State of Maryland has set up a property tax system whereby 56% of the State’s population, including Baltimore City’s residents, subsidize the other 44% of the population. This is documented in my enclosed One State, One Rate! proposal. Will you, as Mayor, initiate and coordinate an effort with the leaders of the counties that are also harmed by our current property tax structure to move us to a fair structure?

2) Abandoning Our Neighborhoods: The Baltimore Sun on December 13, 2015 reported on Baltimore City’s housing program to move City residents, at significant cost to the city, away from troubled neighborhoods to suburban counties, thereby “Escaping the housing trap.” Similarly, after the April Uprising/Riot, there was discussion of enabling some individuals or groups to move away from distressed/troubled neighborhoods. See Dan Rodricks’ Baltimore Sun column of June 7. What is the effect of such subsidized escape on those neighborhoods? Should we move the jobs, not the people? Would it be better to spend those resources serving those neighborhoods and their residents?

3) History and Civics Education: Does focusing on STEM or STEAM education critically diminish vital knowledge of history and exercise of civics among our population?

4) City Elections: If Baltimore City, like all of Maryland’s counties, elected our leaders (Mayor and City Council) as part of the Gubernatorial election cycle, Baltimore City would likely have significantly more influence in elections for Governor/Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and Maryland Comptroller. Should we move our elections from the Presidential cycle to the Gubernatorial cycle?

5) Casino Neighborhoods Boundaries: Since the original establishment of the Baltimore Local Development Council, which recommends how the Casino Impact Funds should be spent, the allowable area for spending these funds has been expanded to the east and to the south, but not to the west and the north. Was this appropriate? If not, how will you revise the area of permissible expenditures?

6) Spending Casino Impact Funds Legally: The Casino Impact Funds are to be spent “for improvements primarily in the communities in immediate proximity” to the casino, MD Code, State Government, § 9-1A-31(b). Yet much of the impact funds to date, and as projected into the future, have been spent on the casino itself and on the city’s infrastructure improvements. Per my enclosed memo of October 30, 2014, I believe this spending is illegal. As Mayor, will you, per the statute, spend the casino impact funds legally, unlike the current administration? This would enable the neighborhoods to have millions to spend, rather than thousands.

7) Casino Impact Fund areas: Is it appropriate that, separate from the Baltimore Local Development Council, another part of Baltimore receives casino impact funds even though they are not near a casino?

8) Pigtown v. Washington Village: Will you officially and for all city purposes acknowledge that the community along Washington Boulevard between Martin Luther King Boulevard and Monroe Street is Pigtown, not Washington Village?

9) The Walters Bathhouse: Should the Walters Bathhouse, 904/906 Washington Boulevard, the last building to have served as a public bath house and long the organizational center of Pigtown, be allowed to leave public hands and stop serving a public function?

10) Pigtown Plaza: The property on the southwest corner of MLK and Washington Boulevards is greatly underused, though the existing businesses are important. Published plans of Pigtown Main Street (Pigtown Main Street Business District Strategic Plan December 2014, pages 84-86) and the Local Development Council (South Baltimore Gateway Master Plan 2015, labeled page 93) both enclosed, envision this corner as a major mixed-use Gateway Project, perhaps also including the property on the northwest corner. This was in significant part due to my Pigtown Plaza proposal. In addition to shopping, dining, parking and perhaps offices, the Project could include market rate housing serving faculty/staff at the adjacent University of Maryland, Baltimore and the University or Maryland Hospital and other downtown employment centers. Seniors with choice ready to give up stairs but not their community could also move to the Project. Would such a project be a priority for your administration, possibly partially financed by a loan of Casino Impact Funds?

11) Getting Over Martin Luther King Boulevard: The communities of the Southwest Partnership, as well as State Center and the communities to its south, need connection to the University of Maryland and downtown without the divide of Martin Luther King Boulevard. Acres of (elevated) land could be created and the divide literally overcome if structures were built over much of MLK Boulevard. Additionally, this might enable a higher use possible for the various parcels of undeveloped land along MLK. Is this an intriguing idea worth exploring by your administration?

12) Walking and Bicycling along Martin Luther King Boulevard: Will you encourage walking and bicycling on the path on the west of Martin Luther King Boulevard by:

  1. Ordering that snow and ice removal operations include the path sections in the shadow of the Highway to Nowhere overpass?
  2. Creating and maintaining a drain to end the pool of water that can exists for days south of Fayette Street? (Or redesign that section of the path)
  3. Restriping the pathway markings on crossing streets and ticketing motorists who block the path?
  4. Redesign the section of the path between Druid Hill and Madison to eliminate the constant dirt/mud?
  5. Replace the many missing bricks?
  6. Having tickets issued to drivers of vehicles that block the pathway when stopped by a red light?

13) Airplane Advertising: To relieve residents of incessant buzzing before sports events, should airplane advertising be prohibited near stadiums?

Pigtown Plaza Proposal

The Washington Boulevard/MLK lot currently housing a Dollar General and other businesses should be redeveloped into a multi-story gateway to Pigtown, perhaps called Pigtown Plaza (or Pigtown Delight to connect to Ridgely’s Delight). First floor will include a Dollar General and a Whole Foods/Harris Teeter type grocery store. Second and third floor parking will include ramps directly accessing MLK Boulevard. Fourth and fifth floor market rate fairly high-end apartments/condos, so Pigtown seniors with choice can stay in the neighborhood when they no longer can/care to climb Rowhouse steps. Top floor nice restaurant, part of which will be available to community for events. Some outdoor space on top floor, and a green roof. Other existing businesses, Tony’s, Zips and the 7-11 if it gets established, might be accommodated in the development, or perhaps elsewhere on or near Washington Boulevard. Perhaps the project will be done in partnership with the existing landowner.

This would be a signature architectural opportunity, possibly with a competition for architectural ideas. Local buildings such as the Bathhouse, B&O Railroad Museum and Camden Yards might provide inspiration. The blue light, once a blue bottle, atop the Bromo Seltzer Tower could suggest a pig atop the Plaza, lighted in pink except when orange, purple, or red, white and blue would be appropriate. Ideally further redevelopment could occur across Washington Boulevard on the site occupied by the single-story Bon Secours facility; name might include Shapes, to recognize Barre Circle, Camden Crossing, and Roundhouse Square.

Note that this project would serve our Economic and Workforce Development goals. It would also have Transportation and Parks ramifications.