WashPost: New Va. Laws Make State 'Less Hospitable' But New Md. Tax Hikes Merely 'Noticeable'

July 1 is traditionally the day when many new state laws take effect, and every year on or about that date, the Washington Post makes sure to inform its readers of some new laws hitting the books in Maryland and Virginia. This year, Marylanders are seeing tax increases, with residents of Montgomery County -- a significant portion of the Post's subscriber base -- disproportionately affected.

Yet in reporting on "A slew of new laws for Md., Va.," Post staffers Laura Vozzella and John Wagner buried infomation about the Old Line State's tax hikes. The first mention came in paragraph 4 out of the article's 34 paragraphs. What's more, Vozzella and Wagner dealt with Virginia's new laws first, meaning that more in-depth explanation of Maryland's tax increases only came 24 paragraphs into the article.

Here are the first four paragraphs of the July 1 Metro section front-pager (emphases mine):

Virginia is becoming a better place for people who buy lots of guns, enjoy microbrewed beers, suffer from peanut allergies, keep bees, braid hair, inspect mold, write private-school tuition checks for somebody else’s kids, want to know the density of their breast tissue and long to see their names plastered on highways.

The commonwealth has become less hospitable to drunk drivers, college staffers who don’t report child sex abuse, unions, seed potatoes, voters who show up at the polls without ID, women seeking abortions and gay people trying to adopt children.

Next door in Maryland, there is change, too. It’s now easier to bring your own wine to restaurants. Golfers in Howard County can start drinking earlier in the morning. And the town of Damascus will get to vote on whether it wants to stay dry.

Meanwhile, Prince George’s County is joining the ranks of school districts with year-round schools. Buses in three Southern Maryland counties will stay in the fleet longer, and state education officials will develop “heat acclimation” guidelines for student athletes.

You may notice that Vozzella and Wagner sought to present Virginia's law changes as having clear winners and losers -- gun owners winners, gays/lesbians and pro-choice women losers they complain-- while Maryland's new laws are treated without such commenary. 

In the fifth paragraph, which falls on page C6, we learn of new taxes on Maryland residents:

Far more noticeable to most Marylanders will be a new batch of tax increases. Higher income taxes for six-figure earners. A doubled “flush tax.” And higher taxes on little cigars and chewing tobacco.

So the tax hikes, a priority of Maryland's liberal Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley will only be "noticeable" to state taxpayers, whereas Virginia's new laws on conservative priorities like voter ID will make the Old Dominion "less hospitable."

Vozzella and Wagner then returned to Virginia's new slew of legislation before returning to the Old Line State. It wasn't until paragraph 24 that they returned to explain Maryland's new tax hikes:

In Maryland, 222 of the 791 laws passed during this year’s annual 90-day session and later signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) will take effect today.

So, too, will a measure passed in a special session in May that bumps up income taxes on six-figure earners in Maryland — the state with the nation’s highest per-capita income.

The increases, which are retroactive to Jan. 1 and aim to help close chronic state budget shortfalls, affect more than 300,000 taxpayers — single-filers reporting income in excess of $100,000 and joint filers reporting more than $150,000.

Nearly one-third of those taxpayers live in Montgomery County, where the average cost per affected taxpayer will be $745 a year, according to state budget analysts.

The most high-profile laws from the regular session that are now in effect aim to step up the state’s efforts to protect the environment. Under one measure, championed by O’Malley, most Marylanders will see their yearly “flush tax” double to $60.

The fee, added onto water and sewer bills, is used to fund upgrades at the state’s 67 major wastewater treatment plants and other Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.

Under another O’Malley-backed law, counties will have to adopt rules to limit new housing developments served by septic systems, especially ones in areas dominated by farmland and forestland.

It seems Virginia has no new taxes on the books, although Vozzella and Wagner derisively noted one revenue-raising measure that doesn't harm taxpayers' wallets:

Virginians will get the chance to buy naming rights to state roads and bridges under a program conceived by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) and expected to boost egos as much as state transportation revenue.

Somehow I think Virginia taxpayers won't mind feeding a few overinflated egos with highway naming rights if it means lower taxes than their neighbors across the Potomac.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters