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Montgomery County DSA Opposes “Developer Blank Check” County Council Bill 29-20


Montgomery County DSA

Montgomery County DSA Opposes “Developer Blank Check” County Council Bill 29-20

September 16, 2020

The steering committee of the Montgomery County, MD branch of the Democratic Socialists of America (MoCo DSA) strongly opposes the proposed Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) scheme offered in the Montgomery County Council bill’s 29-20, and condemns the lack of financial transparency. The bill as proposed would offer a “blank check” to corporate developers who build on certain leased WMATA (Metro) properties, rather than offering real solutions to the housing affordability crisis in Montgomery County. Bill 29-20 gives developers a 100 percent exemption from property taxes for a period of 15 years, even as the Council prepares cuts to public services in the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The County Council is abdicating its role in managing the County’s finances during an unprecedented fiscal and public health calamity affecting all million-plus residents in the County. 

Cuts to public services are looming, and the Council has frozen the compensation of County government workers. Yet in this bill, the Council is offering developers a 15-year, 100 percent tax-exemption in exchange for a reduced payment of unknown size. The bill also stipulates that the County government may negotiate this reduced payment directly with developers, without any further public input into the terms of such agreement – for example, the size of the tax subsidy to developers, or any stipulations on the amount, if any, of affordable housing. 

This is an unconscionable bill, especially as prime real estate on Metrorail property does not require a subsidy to entice developers to build dense housing and commercial development.

The county government and the state of Maryland have a long-track record of corporate giveaways under the guise of “economic incentives.” But things like the loss of Discovery Communications in Silver Spring and close to 700 layoffs by Marriott in Bethesda make us question whether any long-term benefits have trickled down to working-class communities after we handed out tens of millions dollars in subsidies over the last decade.

Montgomery County DSA believes that quality housing must be secured as a human right, not a commodity, for all people. To that end, we agree with the stated goal of the County Council to increase the stock of affordable housing, especially in close proximity to economic opportunity, vibrant communities, and reliable public transit. But a small number of MPDUs in new high-rises are a drop in the bucket and are not even affordable for low-income residents. 

If private interests will not construct affordable housing without fiscal support, then the County Council and the state of Maryland must explore options such as Delegate Vaughn Stewart’s Social Housing Act (House Bill 1149) to create vibrant, socio-economically diverse housing modeled after the publicly-built Social Housing in Vienna, Austria. The converging economic, public health, racial injustice, and climate crises call for bold action to address the housing crisis, not a continuation of the same failed logic that brought us to our current situation.

illustration of lightning bolt striking a rose on top of U.S. Capitol Building
illustration of lightning bolt striking a rose on top of U.S. Capitol Building
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MoCo DSA Uncategorized

Montgomery County Residents Again Demand End to Country Club Giveaways


Montgomery County DSA

Montgomery County Residents Again Demand End to Country Club Giveaways

January 8, 2020

Montgomery County DSA Says: “Money for Jobs and Education, Not the Wealthy’s Recreation”

(CHEVY CHASE, MD) — Montgomery County residents gathered at Columbia Country Club today to demand that state delegates put an end to tax subsidies given to private country clubs. This is the first of a series of planned protests.

The protesters held banners and signs that said “End Tax Breaks for Country Clubs.”

The State of Maryland provides property tax subsidies to country clubs by assessing their property at a rate far below market value when determining clubs’ tax liability. Columbia Country Club, for example, pays less than 25% of what its property tax bill would be if it was taxed at the same rate as homeowners.

Last year, revenue shortfalls forced the County to propose painful budgetary cuts, including $25 million from Montgomery County Public Schools and $3.9 million from Health and Human Services. Now, the County is predicting a $100 million shortfall next year. Meanwhile, the tax giveaways enjoyed by elite country clubs amount to $10 million annually — even as these clubs charge initiation fees of $80,000 to $100,000. 

Montgomery County DSA Chair Elissa Laitin remarked, “Today is the first day of the Maryland legislative session. We are sending a message that it remains unconscionable for the working class to pay more in order to continue subsidizing the recreation of the ruling class. A few years ago, the County raised property tax rates on homeowners by almost nine percent, and we’re told we have to live with budget cuts to essential services. Meanwhile, these clubs for the 1% continue to pay lower taxes than the rest of us. This needs to end.”

Said MoCo DSA Steering Committee member Zach Wiita, “We once again call upon the Maryland General Assembly to pass a bill ending these giveaways to the playgrounds of the wealthy, and put working Marylanders first.”

illustration of lightning bolt striking a rose on top of U.S. Capitol Building
illustration of lightning bolt striking a rose on top of U.S. Capitol Building
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MoCo DSA Uncategorized

MoCo DSA Calls For a Moral Minimum Wage for All Maryland Workers


Montgomery County DSA

MoCo DSA Calls For a Moral Minimum Wage for All Maryland Workers

March 19, 2019

(SILVER SPRING, MD) — The Steering Committee of the Montgomery County Democratic Socialists of America released the following statement today: “While we are pleased to see that the statewide minimum wage for most Maryland workers will likely increase soon, we are dismayed with the exemptions and delays contained in the bills passed by both houses of the Maryland General Assembly.

The Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator determines that a single adult in Montgomery County needs to be paid at least $25.67/hour to afford housing, food, health care, transportation, and other basic needs. A family of two adults and two children needs to earn a combined wage of at least $50.22/hour. Yet, our Governor and General Assembly seem content to allow numerous Marylanders to live in poverty while their employers profit off of their underpaid labor.

The version of the bill passed by the House of Delegates won’t fully implement a $15/hour minimum wage until 2025, and the Senate version won’t fully implement $15/hour for smaller businesses, which make up the majority of Maryland companies, until 2028. Both versions will exempt increasing the minimum wage of tipped workers and agricultural workers — allowing restaurants, for instance, to pay tipped workers as little as $3.63/hour. Therefore, many Maryland workers wouldn’t be paid $15/hour for nine more years, and many others wouldn’t see their wages increase at all.

Perhaps most egregiously, the General Assembly stripped provisions from the original bill that tied the minimum wage to inflation, so that it would automatically increase as the costs of food, housing, and other necessities increase. By not indexing the minimum wage to inflation, the General Assembly has ensured that working-class Marylanders will be forced to fight this same battle again and again as the value of $15 decreases with inflation.

Governor Larry Hogan says he will only support raising the minimum wage to $12.10/hour, and only if our state’s neighbors also increase their minimum wages. When the costs of food and rent and consumer goods increase but workers’ wages do not, the capitalist class is earning more money but is not passing any of its increased profits on to workers. So when we delay increasing the minimum wage for years, this means we are transferring a staggering amount of wealth from workers to the capitalist class.

“We call upon the Maryland General Assembly and the Governor to sign into law a moral minimum wage — one that will increase as inflation increases, and one that pays all workers in Maryland the wages they need to provide housing, food, transportation, child care, and their families’ other basic needs.”

illustration of lightning bolt striking a rose on top of U.S. Capitol Building
illustration of lightning bolt striking a rose on top of U.S. Capitol Building
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MoCo DSA

MoCo DSA Steering Committee Votes to Support Healthy Maryland Act


Montgomery County DSA

MoCo DSA Steering Committee Votes to Support Healthy Maryland Act

March 5, 2019

(SILVER SPRING, MD) —

The Montgomery County Democratic Socialists of America Steering Committee voted Monday to join the growing list of organizations supporting the Healthy Maryland Act of 2019.

As noted by National Nurses United, this legislation will establish the Healthy Maryland program to provide true universal health care on a single-payer basis. “All residents shall be automatically enrolled in the program and receive benefits on a non-discriminatory basis and without regard to preexisting conditions. All medical benefits currently provided under public programs, and benefits comparable or better than those available under employer-sponsored plans, shall be provided including dental and vision. Benefits provided through Healthy Maryland shall not be subject to any co-insurance, deductible or co-payments.” Patients enrolled in the program will be able to receive care from any qualified medical care provider they choose.

Organizations supporting the Healthy Maryland Act include National Nurses United, Our Revolution Maryland, Clinicians for Progressive Care, Progressive Maryland, Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO, SEIU 32BJ, CASA de Maryland, Maryland Working Families, Women’s Law Center of Maryland, AFSCME Maryland, and the Progressive Democrats of America.

As legislators continue to advance the Healthy Maryland Act, Montgomery County DSA looks forward to working with our allies to advance a transition to statewide single-payer health care that will be crafted to ensure economic justice and security for all healthcare industry workers and their patients.

illustration of lightning bolt striking a rose on top of U.S. Capitol Building
illustration of lightning bolt striking a rose on top of U.S. Capitol Building
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MoCo DSA

MoCo DSA Calls for Del. Lisanti to Resign or Be Expelled


Montgomery County DSA

MoCo DSA Calls for Del. Lisanti to Resign or Be Expelled

March 5, 2019

(SILVER SPRING, MD) —

The Montgomery County Democratic Socialists of America has joined the growing chorus of prominent organizations and political leaders calling on Maryland State Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti (D-Harford County) to resign her office. Its Steering Committee passed a resolution on Monday calling for Delegate Lisanti’s resignation or expulsion.

Delegate Lisanti, who used a vile racial slur in the presence of several fellow members of the Maryland House of Delegates in January, has attempted to imply that she may not have used the slur after initially confirming that she had. House Speaker Michael Busch has stripped her of her committee and leadership assignments, and the House has censured her for her behavior. In spite of numerous organizations and leaders calling on her to resign, Delegate Lisanti has refused to leave office.

Those calling on Delegate Lisanti to resign include the NAACP, the Legislative Black Caucus, Jews United for Justice, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Progressive Maryland, Maryland Democratic Party Chair Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, and the Harford County Democratic Central Committee. 

The Montgomery County DSA Steering Committee issued the following statement:

“Delegate Lisanti’s behavior has been shameful. Not only did she use a vile, blood-soaked racial slur to describe her fellow Marylanders, but she has attempted to evade taking responsibility for her choices by prevaricating on whether or not she used the slur, arguing that diversity is hurting our country, and refusing to resign her office when called upon to do so. White supremacists have no place in the Maryland General Assembly, nor anywhere in our government. We stand in solidarity with the people of Prince George’s County and Harford County, and with those calling for Delegate Lisanti’s resignation. If she continues in her refusal to resign, we call upon the House of Delegates to exercise its authority under the Constitution of the State of Maryland to expel Delegate Lisanti from office.”

illustration of lightning bolt striking a rose on top of U.S. Capitol Building
illustration of lightning bolt striking a rose on top of U.S. Capitol Building
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MoCo DSA Uncategorized

Montgomery County Residents Say: “Money for Jobs and Education, Not the Wealthy’s Recreation”


Montgomery County DSA

Montgomery County Residents Say: “Money for Jobs and Education, Not the Wealthy’s Recreation”

February 19, 2019

(ROCKVILLE, MD) — Montgomery County residents gathered at Woodmont Country Club yesterday to demand an end to tax subsidies given to private country clubs. This was the first of two such protests. The next will be held at Columbia Country Club on Friday, February 22, at 8:00 AM.

The protesters held banners and signs that said “End Tax Breaks for Country Clubs.”

The State of Maryland provides property tax subsidies to country clubs by assessing their property at a rate far below market value when determining clubs’ tax liability. Columbia Country Club, for example, pays less than 25% of what its property tax bill would be if it was taxed at the same rate as homeowners. The Montgomery County state delegation is currently considering bill MC 27-19 which would scale back tax breaks for the largest private golf clubs in the county.

Elissa Laitin, Chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), stated, “Elite country clubs like Woodmont, Columbia, Chevy Chase and Congressional enjoy a property tax break that costs the county $10 million annually. This is outrageous. These are clubs whose members can afford to pay initiation fees of upwards of $90,000 – well more than what a typical worker in the county makes in a year.”

Meanwhile, revenue shortfalls have forced newly-inaugurated Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich to propose painful budgetary cuts to the County government, including $25 million from Montgomery County Public Schools and $3.9 million from Health and Human Services. If country clubs were assessed at standard rates, the County would receive about $10 million in additional tax revenues annually.

Laitin continued, “While MC 27-19 is a good start, this bill doesn’t go far enough. Woodmont and some other clubs are exempted from these bills, which we don’t agree with. We strongly support the bills, but we also want our elected officials to go further. It is unconscionable for the working class to pay more in order to continue subsidizing the golf games of the ruling class.”

Said MoCo DSA Steering Committee member Zach Wiita, “This kind of class privilege is obscene. Public services are being cut, but our government is holding working people and elite country clubs to different standards. A few years ago, the County raised property tax rates on homeowners by almost nine percent, and we’re told we have to live with budget cuts. Meanwhile, private country clubs continue to pay lower taxes, and in some places these tax breaks are used for what can only be described as scams in order to build luxury housing for the rich. Simply put: these giveaways to the elite need to end.”

Laitin warned, “The Maryland General Assembly has a choice: take a step to provide tax fairness and adequate revenue for vital public services, or side with the whims of the one percent. DSA will be watching the vote to see whether Delegates and State Senators take the side of working people or millionaires in Montgomery County.”

illustration of lightning bolt striking a rose on top of U.S. Capitol Building
illustration of lightning bolt striking a rose on top of U.S. Capitol Building
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MoCo DSA Uncategorized

Local Socialists Demand An End To Country Club Tax Giveaways in Montgomery County


Montgomery County DSA

Local Socialists Demand An End To Country Club Tax Giveaways in Montgomery County

February 1, 2019

Democratic Socialists of America Members Expose Tax Subsidies for Elite Country Clubs; Demand That State Legislators End the Subsidies

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD — Today, County residents leafleted at local Metro stations to educate fellow residents about the property tax subsidies that wealthy country clubs have enjoyed for years. 

Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) member Zach Wiita handed out leaflets at the Silver Spring Metro station and said, “Montgomery County country club tax policy is upside down: it caters to well-connected elites at the expense of the many. We need to change the law to meet the needs of the rest of us, not the few.”

The State of Maryland provides property tax subsidies to elite country clubs by assessing their property at a rate far below market value when determining clubs’ tax liability. For example, the Columbia Country Club is paying less than 25% of what its property tax bill would be if it was taxed at the same rate as regular homeowners.

Remarkably, Montgomery County’s elites are attempting to preserve this unfair tax giveaway at significant cost to the County. Revenue shortfalls have forced newly-inaugurated Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, endorsed last year by MDC DSA, to propose painful budgetary cuts to the County government, including $25 million from Montgomery County Public Schools and $3.9 million from Health and Human Services. If country clubs were assessed at standard rates, the County would receive about $10 million in additional tax revenues annually.

In addition, Metro D.C. DSA Chair Elizabeth Golden and MoCo DSA Organizing Committee member Elissa Laitin sent letters to every member of the Montgomery County delegation this week, to request that they support Delegate David Moon’s “country club bills,” MC 11-19 and 27-19.  

“Our elected officials must end the practice of giving wealthy country clubs and their private golf courses a sharply reduced property tax rate,” said Laitin. “It is unconscionable for us to pay more in order to continue subsidizing the golf games of the ruling class.”

“We want to be clear. This level of class privilege is obscene.” Laitin continued. “While our public services are being cut, working people are forced to pay more. A few years ago, the County raised property tax rates on homeowners by almost nine percent. Meanwhile, these country clubs continue to pay less. And if there are country clubs not paying their fair share, we can be sure that others in the ruling class have lobbied for their own tax giveaways as well. MoCo DSA will continue to demand an end to these subsidies.”

Laitin warned, “We’ll be watching the votes on this legislation closely, to see whether our elected officials choose to side with the 99 percent or the one percent.” 

illustration of lightning bolt striking a rose on top of U.S. Capitol Building
illustration of lightning bolt striking a rose on top of U.S. Capitol Building