During my 15 years as comptroller, I’ve always made it a priority to help Maryland taxpayers in any way I can.
As part of our agency’s efforts to lessen the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided for the third year in a row to extend the due date for state individual income and quarterly estimated taxes to July 15.
Even as a “post-pandemic normal” has emerged, many of our friends and neighbors have yet to fully recover. Some may have left their jobs to care for children and drained their savings. Others were forced to change careers and are still trying to get back on even footing.
Whatever the reason, providing taxpayers three more months to file their returns can be enormously helpful and comes at virtually no cost to the state.
Taxpayers are also reaping the benefit of a 30-day state gas tax holiday, which runs through April 16. Although I was disappointed that the General Assembly and Governor Larry Hogan didn’t heed my call for a 90-day suspension, I was pleased that legislators worked with our agency to adopt several critical amendments. This, combined with my team’s efforts to keep roughly 2,300 gas station owners and industry organizations apprised of how the tax holiday would work, has ensured smooth implementation and across-the-board compliance that has, at least temporarily, eased the pain at the pump.
In total, the 30-day holiday will return $100 million to Marylanders’ wallets and has provided immediate economic relief for motorists without penalizing small business owners who are the beating heart of our state’s economy.
We can offer this type of reprieve in Maryland because of our unprecedented financial position. The Maryland Board of Revenue Estimates, which I chair, has adjusted the state’s revenue forecasts by $7.5 billion during the past 18 months.
Knowing the state has the means to help, I renewed my call for a second round of economic stimulus to benefit low-wage earners, small businesses, and child care providers who continue to feel the fiscal squeeze.
This would include a $2,000 emergency survival check for our low-wage earners and Earned Income Tax Credit recipients. These funds are especially important as global supply chain issues and inflation have significantly impacted cost-of-living expenses and basic necessities like food, rent and transportation.
It would provide $500 million in aid for our small businesses, particularly our minority-owned and women-owned businesses that were hardest hit by the pandemic and disproportionately left behind by pandemic assistance programs designed to help everyone equitably.
Additionally, $500 million should go to support our child care providers — hundreds of which shuttered for good due to the pandemic — at a time when the cost of affordable, reliable child care continues to be out of reach for thousands of Maryland families.
Regrettably, the General Assembly has yet to take up any of these proposals with the 90-day legislative session nearing its adjournment on April 11. I’m deeply disappointed by this inaction. Elected officials rarely have the chance to affect immediate and lasting change. This, I fear, will go down as a missed opportunity.
As Maryland’s chief financial officer, I know we have the means to provide this kind of help and still have enough money to bolster the state’s Rainy Day Fund. The latest Board of Revenue Estimates report reinforces that notion.
We must remember that this is not politicians’ money. This is the people’s money. And those of us entrusted in public office should invest this surplus for the taxpayers who pay our salaries.
Peter Franchot is the 33rd comptroller of Maryland.