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Tensions Run High Ahead of House Votes

With the full House meeting most of the day to debate and vote on revenue-raising measures, tension is abundant.

The House money committees got an early start, and despite Appropriations chairman Cameron Henry’s comment Wednesday, that he was “not really in a rush to deal with the Senate just yet.”

The committee began with the Senate measure to tap another $128-million from the Rainy Day fund.

“We pretty much have to do it,” Henry said, clearly displeased.

Appropriations also agreed to the bill to use the first $200-million coming from BP.

Across the hall in Ways and Means, First Lady Donna Edwards was in attendance, seated with disabilities advocates wearing their signature yellow shirts. All could be seen squirming in their seats as committee chair Neil Abramson grilled staff analysts about a fiscal note.

The bill in question would add a half cent to state sales tax and remove exemptions from the other four cents

“We will collect $270-million on sales tax which is now being applied to business utilities at a 4.5% rate?” Abramson asked. “All the sales tax holidays are gone, and now we will receive $5.6-million at a 4.5% sales tax rate?”

He wanted to know where the Legislative Fiscal Office got their numbers

“Since we’re basing some of our votes and decisions on those numbers, I’m just trying to figure out what numbers we’re using.”

In particular, Abramson had concerns about the estimate for a sales tax exemption category designated as “other”.

“Anything that the taxpayer wants to remove from his tax liability rolls into a miscellaneous line called ‘other’, fiscal analyst Greg Albrecht tried to explain. “We don’t know what’s actually in that ‘other’ category.”

“This fiscal note could be $180-million low?” Abramson pressed.

“It could be greater…could be less,” Albrecht replied.

Abramson still didn’t like it, saying, “If we’re going to vote on something, particularly that imposes a tax on our constituents, we need to know what we’re doing to ‘em.”