Taxes Are the Sinews of the State

Testimony to the Montgomery County Council on the Transportation Impact Tax

7 October 2003

by Paulette Dickerson

I've come here to ask you to approve higher taxes for transportation in Montgomery County. Today's hearing addresses an impact tax that is being proposed for new development but as I see it that tax should be only one piece of a coherent plan to secure a revenue stream that is more insulated from economic swings and less subject to short term manipulation through either the election process, taxpayer groups, the business community or developers themselves.

Depending on how this tax is implemented, it could take of the heat off some road improvement projects. It might ease the process for "smarter" development. If it is true that development follows roads, there would be funds targeted for transportation that would help to build those roads, to provide bus service, etc.

New projects might be easier to justify to existing neighborhoods if some mitigation for congestion was built into the approval process. Along with the "Schools" part of the impact taxes and recordation fees, the short term burden of development would fall directly on those who have the most to gain-- developers.

At the "Teach-In" in September, I heard someone make the suggestion that the impact tax be tied to square footage as well so that the tax would be even further biased towards the better-off. While it is true that developers will pass the tax on to their customers, the cost of these taxes, even at the high end, comes to less than many home buyers play for amenities like cathedral ceilings, stained glass windows and three car garages.

The numbers we are talking about today are considerably less than the cost of a new car or gassing up that car for a year, less than the monthly lease on an SUV or the cost of public transportation for a year, less than a years worth of lawn service, tree trimming or landscaping.

Yet this tax would begin the revenue stream for transportation just ahead of development instead of just behind it. It would help us all get ahead of the curve in the planning process.

I would suggest to you that you deepen that revenue stream by taxing us all more--perhaps adding a few pennies to the cost per gallon of gasoline, if it is legal for you to do so--perhaps there could be a surcharge on the vehicle emissions process, or a vehicle recordation tax that directs money to transportation problems. Perhaps you could add a dime or two per hundred dollars of assessed value of our homes to County property taxes for our transportation infrastructure.

Or maybe we should have guys at intersections with cardboard signs that say "Will Work to Ease Congestion" or collection plates at stoplights--we could call it "Pay-As-You-Go" Montgomery. It could work.

I don't know whether development follows roads or roads follow development but it makes a lot of sense for the County to set up a process by which the cost of transportation precedes development instead of lagging far behind. The Impact Tax on new development is a good first step.

"Taxes are the sinews of the state"--Cicero

Paulette Dickerson P.O. Box 598 Kensington, MD. 20895-0598
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E-Mail: "pdickerson (at)"
Paper Mail: Paulette Dickerson, P.O.Box 598, Kensington, MD 20895-0598, USA

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