In 1999, I was but a student in a Baltimore-area high school when Martin O’Malley, a former assistant state’s attorney and city councilmember, became the Mayor of Baltimore. Living in a suburb of Baltimore, I knew right then and there that he would eventually become Governor of Maryland and I’d have to deal with his financially retarded policies. You see, while he was Mayor of Baltimore, O’Malley did interesting things with taxes. He would first drop some taxes to make people happy, but then he would increase other ones—a lot. In the end, O’Malley left Baltimore more heavily taxed than when he first took office.
Fast forward to 2008. Sure enough, O’Malley is Governor of Maryland. Today, for the first time since 1977—before I was even born—the Maryland state sales tax is going up under legislation enacted by O’Malley. Indeed, he hasn’t been governor for a full year and he’s already screwing with decades-old tax rates. (While he was at it, he also raised several other tax rates but attempted to hide them behind tiny property tax rate cuts. O’Malley says that over 80% of Maryland families will pay fewer taxes overall, but he’s assuming that Maryland’s highest-in-the-nation housing prices are going to keep rising. In the end, it’s likely that even the poor of Baltimore City will pay more taxes than before.)
Starting today, our state’s sale tax is going up 20%: from 5 cents per dollar to 6 cents per dollar.
You might think I’m being a little silly getting so upset over a tax hike that only amounts to an extra $100 for every $10,000 of purchases. You might even think it’s a good thing because it will help discourage stupid people with credit cards from buying giant TVs and overpriced cars they can’t afford. Maybe you’re right. But my reasons for raging against the sales tax increase are different:
- Our 5% sales tax is sacred. Maryland is as proud of its 5% sales tax as it is of its historical significance, Chesapeake Bay crabs, and high STD rate. Touching our sales tax is like molesting a baby seal on its birthday—you just don’t do it.
- It’s the one affordable thing about Maryland. Everything costs so damn much in Maryland, especially in my county. Gas? $3.10 a gallon. Housing? $300,000 for a shack. Eggs? We only get 7 per dozen. At 5%, Maryland goes from being second-lowest among its neighbors to tied for highest.
- 5% sales tax is easy. Especially in this age of rampant illiteracy and people who can’t do math, we need an easy-to-compute sales tax. You can do 5% in your head in five seconds; 5% of $2.09: drop the nine and take half of what’s left, or half of 20 = 10 cents. What’s 6% of $2.09? Nobody freaking knows!
- It’s from O’Malley. For many reasons beyond the scope of this discussion, I don’t like O’Malley. I might have tolerated a sales tax increase from any other governor a little more, but having it come from O’Malley makes me think about moving. Unfortunately all of our neighboring states suck worse than we do. No offense, Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
Lucky for all of Maryland, this personal finance writer is not taking this assault on our freedom lying down. Indeed, I am sitting on my couch when I say that I will fight this unjust tax increase in the highest court of the land: the Court of My Wallet. And if you’d like to join me, here’s how you can help me fight the Maryland sales tax increase from anywhere in the country:
- Never visit Maryland. If you’re debating a family vacation in either Florida or Maryland this year, let me save you the trouble and point you straight to Disney World. Why anyone would want to travel to Maryland is beyond me since the only thing we have that you can’t find in a closer, cheaper state is lots more traffic. Now that our sales tax is 6%, please keep your tax dollars in states with much sexier governors.
- Never live in Maryland. We make it easy for you by keeping our housing prices and rent at the highest levels in the country. If you really want to pay high housing prices on the East Coast, go live in New Jersey.
- Never drive through Maryland. Not even to get to Pennsylvania from West Virginia. Go the long way. Otherwise you risk contributing financially to Maryland via its ridiculous highway tolls or taxes on rest stop vending machines. Also, don’t fly through Maryland because our air is 30% slower than the national average.
- Don’t buy from Maryland online retailers. Some Maryland retailers, mostly of candied asparagus, will charge Maryland sales tax from their websites. Send those retailers an e-mail letting them know you’re not buying from them because they didn’t complain loudly enough to block this sales tax increase.
- If you live in Maryland, go shop somewhere else. Yes, you’re probably supposed to pay Maryland use tax anyway on items you order out-of-state or online, but we all know you don’t. That said, if anyone asks, I do.
- Tell O’Malley what you think. You can use this convenient online form to let Governor O’Malley know that you won’t stand for his sales tax increase, even if you live in France and don’t speak a lick of English. Zut, O’Malley! C’est merde!
With any luck, O’Malley will see that a 6% sales tax isn’t any better at fixing his budget problems than a 5% one.
By the way, if you think you’re safe from O’Malley’s rampage from one of your 49 other states, beware: I’d put money on an O’Malley U.S. presidential bid by 2020. If you like the 15% income tax bracket, then you’ll love 25%!