Grassroots coalition challenges unfair tax break:
Lockheed Martin’s corporate headquarters is located in Montgomery County. A couple of years ago, the company built what can only be called a luxury hotel for the use of employees, vendors, contractors and other invited guests. The state of Maryland has a tax on hotel rooms, as does Montgomery County. Lockheed Martin didn’t want to pay this tax. So, they asked the state legislature last spring to relieve them of having to pay it. The legislature immediately complied, passing a special law that applied only to Lockheed Martin, costing the state $371,000/year–when 19,000 developmentally disabled Marylanders are on a waiting list for services and the education budget has been cut by $97 million. We were astounded and appalled.
This summer, County Executive Ike Leggett sent a legislative package to the County Council asking for County legislation that would mirror the state bill, legislation that would cost the County $450,000 per year, according to the fiscal note that was a part of the document. The County has furloughed fire fighters, cut library hours, and increased the class sizes of our schools, among other draconian budget cuts—and yet, we are being asked to subsidize a corporation that had sufficient resources to provide a total compensation to its chief executive last year of $42 million.
Progressive groups in Maryland, in particular Peace Action Montgomery, started to mobilize against the bill. We set up an automated e-mail letter to Council members. We tabled at fairs in September, featuring a poster about the bill and a petition that people could sign in opposition to it. We lobbied the candidates running for County Council at campaign events. And we organized a coalition of speakers from a range of perspectives to testify in opposition to the bill at the Sept. 21, 2010 County Council Public Hearing.
Speakers at the hearing who opposed the bill included:
- Ana Sol Gutierrez, Delegate to the Maryland General Assembly video
- Jamie Raskin, Md State Senator represented by Emily Koechlin video
- Gino Renne, president of the Montgomery County Government Employees Organization video
- Rion Dennis, Executive Director Progressive Maryland video
- Patrick McCann, board member of the Montgomery County Education Association video
- George Gluck, candidate for Montgomery County County Council Green Party video
- Shelley Fudge, Progressive Neighbors video
- Jean Athey, Peace Action Montgomery video
Two council members’ reactions:
The hearing was extraordinary: we had logic, data, passion and political power on our side. Three Council members stated publicly that they would not support the legislation. Subsequently, the bill was pulled from the agenda of the committee that was to review it—effectively killing it.
Rightly so: Why should the citizens of Montgomery County subsidize one of the wealthiest companies in the nation, one that is profiting from the very wars that are killing our young people and bankrupting our nation?