Maryland Taxpayers Association, Inc.
(A legislative note from Kenneth R. Timmerman, President, Maryland
Taxpayers Association, Inc.)
The top priority of the statewide Maryland Taxpayers Association for the 2001 General Assembly is to get introduced and to build public support for a Return-the-Tax-Surplus Amendment (RTSA) to the Maryland Constitution.
Why is MTA supporting RTSA?
When legislators arrived in Annapolis last January for the 2000 annual
legislative session, the State forecast it would have a surplus of $816
million by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. That estimate was subsequently
increased. At the end of the year, the real tax surplus approached $1
What is RTSA?
The Return the Tax Surplus Amendment is a bill that would require the State government to refund the state tax surplus to Maryland Taxpayers on a pro-rata basis. This benefits all Maryland Taxpayers.
As currently drafted, RTSA requires the State Comptroller to issue Taxpayers a refund check in years when the Comptroller determines that general fund tax revenues have exceeded the revenue forecasts at the beginning of the fiscal year. (These revenue forecasts are generally in line with the budget as approved by the legislature). MTA's draft RTSA is based on SB 603, introduced during the 1998 session by then Senator David Craig.
Why a Constitutional amendment?
Article 52 of the Maryland Constitution gives the Governor sole authority for introducing spending bills. Since RTSA requires the Comptroller to cut checks to individual Taxpayers separately from the Governor's budget process, it requires Constitutional authority.
Amendments to the state constitution are frequent and appear on the ballot in virtually every state-wide election. In some cases, constitutional amendments affecting a single county also appear.
What are the procedures for passing RTSA?
A proposed amendment to the State constitution must pass both Houses by a three-fifths majority, but does not require signature by the Governor. After passage, it will appear on state-wide ballots in the next general election.
When would RTSA go into effect?
If approved by the voters in the general election of 2002, the RTSA would take effect in the next budget planning session (FY2004).
Role of the Voters
Ultimately, as a Constitutional amendment, RTSA must be put to the voters.
We believe the question put to voters is very simple: Do you believe the
State should spend excess revenues it collected from you, or do want your
How is the surplus calculated?
Under the RTSA procedures, the Comptroller will announce "as soon
as practicable" after the beginning of the fiscal year (July 1) his
estimate of the General fund revenues for that fiscal year, based on the
Governor's budget as amended and adopted by the General Assembly.
What funds are affected?
RTSA only affects the General Fund. The Transportation Trust Fund, Special and Higher Education Funds, and Federal Funds are distinct from the General Fund for state budget purposes.
Will RTSA limit all growth in government spending?
No. Tax revenues (and therefore, State budgets) will increase as Maryland's
economy or population expands.
Will RTSA affect Governor Glendening's school construction plans?
No. The Governor made a commitment in 1998 to spend $1 billion for school construction from various funds, including bonds and Paygo arrangements from the General fund, in four yearly installments of $250 million. FY 2003 is the last year of that commitment. If approved by the General Assembly and by the voters, RTSA will take effect in FY 2004.
Do other states have RTSA?
Yes: Oregon and Colorado have similar provisions.
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YES, I WOULD LIKE TO CO-SPONSOR MTA'S PROPOSED RETURN THE TAX SURPLUS AMENDMENT (RTSA).