Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk

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When local governments start hacking away at their expenditures and receivables over the next few months, it’s been said everything is on the table. Ocean City has already shown this penchant repeatedly, particularly when it agreed to turn off every other light bulb in the Inlet parking lot this winter.

The county proved this week it’s also looking at all options. It was proposed that the county rescind the current property tax discount it gives to property owners who pay their tax bill early. Currently, diligent property owners, or mortgage companies, in many cases, who pay their tax bills within a month of receiving them get a 1-percent break. This is significant for some and enough of a carrot to encourage many to pay early. It was proposed this week to cut the discount to half of a percent, which would raise about $500,000 in new revenue for the county.

While there does not appear to be enough support among the commissioners to make this change, it’s important to realize this would essentially be a tax increase for many. That’s going to be the perception, and a couple commissioners publicly acknowledged it this week. They would be wise to ignore this proposal.

I read Governor O’Malley’s State of the State speech Wednesday. Some of the speech touched on his desire to help small business in these difficult times with unemployment insurance help and perks to create jobs. “And because small businesses create two out of every three jobs in Maryland, I’m also asking you to pass emergency legislation to provide $83 million of relief from rapidly escalating Unemployment Insurance Premiums,” he said.

That legislation is aimed at providing tax credits for businesses who create jobs and hire. That’s all well and good, but most businesses are currently either trimming their workforce to become more efficient, and being hammered by the state consequently with higher taxes for it, or focusing on keeping their current employees at work.

It’s difficult to buy into the state’s sincerity in helping small businesses when the unemployment tax of a certain community newspaper, not mentioning any names, increased by 300 percent this week. Let’s fix the addressable by lowering these jobless tax rates and finding alternative and more practical means to replenish the state’s trust fund before dreaming about the glories of the impractical.

A big snow can bring about some unusual images. Here’s a few I found interesting:

– On Sunday, an old van came barreling down Washington Street in Berlin, with its backdoors propped open by an even older broom and a worn rubber hose tied to the bumper, pulling a boy on a new boogie board. That’s not something you see everyday.

– A shopping center was getting its parking lot cleared on Monday morning by a pickup truck with a plow fastened to the front. That’s a fairly common sight, but in the bed of the truck were two boys throwing salt every which way possible including at each other and atop parked cars.

– A man was perched atop his broken down mini-van outside Berlin on Monday morning, but seemed to be making the best of the situation. There he was kicking back on the hood of his car, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. There was no sense of urgency at all. Turns out he was just waiting for AAA to arrive, but he certainly chose an interesting place to kill time.

Chances are you broke the law this week without knowing it. In Maryland, it’s illegal to leave a car running while unattended. That means the fuzz has the right to issue you a fine, upwards of $500, if you are caught warming up your car in the morning. No offense to the lawman, but this is ridiculous. Rather than head back in the house after starting the car, allowing the defrost to kick in and the vehicle to warm, the law says people are supposed to sit in their freezing cars on their own private property. That’s just not going to happen.

In other news, here’s one more meaningless Super Bowl prediction: Colts 38-Saints 28.

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