Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday a $1 billion package of tax relief and direct payments to some Marylanders in an effort to shore up the state’s flagging economy.
His plan calls for payments of up to $450 for individuals and $750 for families who are considered low and moderate income because they have claimed Maryland’s Earned Income Tax Credit. That would be followed later by payments of up to $150 for individuals and $250 for families.
He said in a morning news conference that executive actions he took last year, along with federal relief programs, had helped but they weren’t enough.
His RELIEF Act of 2021 (Recovery for the Economy, Livelihoods, Industries, Entrepreneurs and Families) would “provide even more targeted emergency direct relief to fill in the gaps that still remain,” he said.
Hogan estimated about 400,000 Marylanders would receive the payments, at a cost of about $270 million, much of it coming from the state’s rainy-day fund.
His package also includes eliminating state and local income taxes on unemployment benefits, extending sales tax credits to small businesses, and easing other business tax burdens.
He said he will send the bill to the General Assembly as emergency legislation when it arrives in Annapolis on Wednesday.
“I cannot imagine anything that could possibly be more important for the legislature to pass,” he said. “Every day that goes by without passing stimulus and tax relief package means more jobs that will be lost, more families who will lose their homes and more businesses who will go out of business and more people that suffer.”
Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones issued a noncommittal statement in which they thanked the governor for including them in discussions of his package. But they said the General Assembly would concentrate on fixing “a broken unemployment insurance system” and getting Marylanders back on their feet as soon as possible.
“We look forward to the Governor working with us to accomplish these goals and demonstrating for the country what the true value of bipartisanship can be,” they wrote.
Hogan’s announcement came the day after State Comptroller Peter Franchot held a virtual rally for his plan to send $2,000 checks to low-income Marylanders.
Franchot says he only needs permission from the governor, Ferguson and Jones to do it, but Hogan said there were two problems with that. Number, one, he doesn’t have the power to write those checks.
And number two, Franchot “was talking about draining the entire rainy-day fund of the state,” Hogan said.
“We chose to follow the directions of the spending affordability committee and the legislature in maintaining already rainy-day fund,” he added. “We want to maintain our triple A bond rating and we want to make sure that state government continues to function.”
Franchot insisted he does have the power to act and said there is a “a moral imperative” to act quickly to help struggling families rather than wait for the legislature.
“Many of them do not have any money, they've been unemployed,” he said. “They have no money for food, they have no money for medicine, they have no money for rent. They're out in the cold waiting for free food and long lines.”
He said the governor has the power to issue checks in the state of emergency.
“But instead, he acts like Ebenezer Scrooge, standing there saying, Oh, no, it's not fiscally responsible. Really? He’s the governor.”
Franchot said if her were governor, he’d do it right away. Meanwhile, it’s unclear whether, or how quickly, the General Assembly will act on the governor’s package.