Prince George's officials push to win more in state funding

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Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly

Prince George's County officials are pushing for a change in the way the state government calculates county wealth that would bring a $20 million windfall.

The county has long had issues with the way Annapolis assesses net taxable income -- essentially a wealth index of the state's 23 counties and Baltimore. By looking at residents' income tax returns, the state determines how much money to allot to each county.

That income tax information is assessed on Sept. 15 each year. That's the problem, county officials say: Taxpayers can file for an extension

so they don't have to file until Oct. 15. This step is often taken by wealthier taxpayers, meaning that counties with richer residents look more in line with counties like Prince George's in the eyes of Annapolis.

"When they factor in the different date, it actually changes the calculation," said Barry Hudson, a spokesman for Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker. "We lose out on $20 million."

About 6.4 percent of Montgomery County residents filed their income tax returns after the snapshot date, compared with 2.7 percent of Prince George's taxpayers, according to the Maryland Comptroller's Office.

A $20 million uptick in state funding would be a boon for the county. While the next fiscal year's budget gap has not been projected yet, Prince George's officials said it's not likely to shrink much from fiscal 2013's $126 million shortfall.

The state's net taxable income formula was almost changed earlier this year, when state lawmakers debated a bill allowing a new casino in Prince George's County with table games and all-day operation at casinos across the state. Buried deep within the bill was a provision giving Prince George's the money it lost out on, though counties like Montgomery would get to keep their extra funding as a compromise.

"The end result was Prince George's would get what it's supposed to get, and Montgomery would get what they're not supposed to get," said Del. Jolene Ivey, the incoming chairwoman of Prince George's County's House delegation. "There's a limited amount of money in the state, and everybody is competing for it."

When the bill faltered and the gambling provisions were turned into notoriously hard-fought ballot initiative Question 7, Gov. Martin O'Malley promised that the issue would be addressed in 2013, though Ivey says it will likely be a quick fix similar to the one floated this year rather than a full change of the net taxable income date.

"I expect a compromise," she said. "As long as Prince George's gets our share, that's fine."

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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Matt Connolly

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner