By Madelyn Hoffman
Peace Action, nationally and in many states around the country, is working hard on the “Move the Money” campaign — a national effort to pressure elected officials on all levels to support all measures that take at least 25% of the military budget and move that money into programs that address community needs. To learn more about the nationally coordinated effort, please visit the New Priorities Network website: www.newprioritiesnetwork.org.
One current example of the impact Peace Action’s “Move the Money” campaign is having is illustrated by a situation with Lockheed Martin in Montgomery County, Maryland, described below. This is the latest development in a two-year effort by grass roots activists to change the budget priorities of Montgomery County to reflect community needs.
Here’s Jean Athey, of Peace Action Montgomery speaking this Saturday about the latest developments:
“Lockheed Martin lost the battle in 2011 to convince Montgomery County’s council to change the definition of ‘hotel’ so as to exempt guests at the company’s luxury hotel from being subject to a 7% hotel tax that everyone else has to pay. Now, Maryland’s state government is considering a bill to force the county to do so, and it looks very likely to pass. This is an unbelievable and outrageous example of corporate welfare, designed for one of the wealthiest companies in the nation. The bill is also an egregious example of state interference in a local issue and so further diminishes democracy.”
Here’s Cole Harrison, Executive Director of Massachusetts Peace Action, “Lockheed does not seem to care about the hotel tax so much as about the willingness of a local government agency to stand up against them.”
Here’s more from Peace Action Montgomery:
An outrageous bill has passed a State senate committee and a companion bill is being considered by the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Delegates, and we want to defeat it. You can read the Washington Post story about this bill here.
What this bill does: It will force Montgomery County to exempt Lockheed Martin’s conference hotel from the county’s hotel tax. In addition, it requires the County to reimburse Lockheed Martin $1.4 million for taxes it has paid the County to date for hotel taxes.
Background: Lockheed Martin claims that because this is a private hotel, it should not be subject to the lodging tax. In 2011, the company attempted to get the County Council to change its legal definition of a hotel in order to exempt Lockheed Martin hotel visitors from the tax. The County Council refused to do this. In 2012, the County Executive proposed in his FY 2013 budget that Lockheed Martin be given a “grant” of $900,000 to recompense this multi-billion dollar company for the hotel taxes it paid in 2011 and 2012. The County Council refused to go along. County residents testified to the absurdity of these proposals and to the unfairness of singling out one company for preferential treatment, at the expense of the rest of county businesses and individuals, who pay their taxes. For more background on what has been a two-year fight, see article from last summer in Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/06/06-8
The state legislature, in introducing this bill, did not go through the county delegation prior to presenting it, even though the bill will only affect Montgomery County.
Why this is outrageous:
(1) It violates the sovereignty of local government–the County Council should have the power to tax in its own jurisdiction. Furthermore, the issue has come before the Council twice, and the Council refused to consider this special tax exemption. Moreover, while this bill affects only Montgomery, it wasn’t even considered by the Montgomery delegation. This legislation dilutes the power of local citizens to make their own decisions on things that affect them. This is a heavy-handed assault on the county. It’s an insult to the idea of local government and of the right of the county to govern itself.
(2) It is blatant corporate welfare for one of the wealthiest, most profitable companies in the nation, one that gets essentially all its money from the government.
(3) In a period of austerity for individuals and for state and local governments, a powerful company is seeking special favors. This legislation is a prime example of the power of money and influence in government.
Peace Action Montgomery is planning to fight this, but there is very little time. Here’s what you can do:
(1) Join Peace Action Montgomery at the Capitol in Annapolis on Monday night, March 11th, to pass out fliers, urging senators to oppose this bill. The senate is expected to vote on it in the general session that evening.
(2) Call your senator (or email if you prefer, but calling is best) and say that you oppose Senate Bill 631, the Corporate Welfare for Lockheed Martin bill: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2013RS/fnotes/bil_0001/sb0631.pdf
(3) Call your delegates and say that you oppose HB 815, the Corporate Welfare for Lockheed Martin bill in the House of Delegates.
(4) Ask all your friends and colleagues to do the same!
Why, in a time that WIC supplements for babies and pregnant women are being cut, when children are being deprived of Head Start, when unemployment benefits are being reduced–why in such a time should one of the wealthiest companies in the state receive this kind of special tax favoritism?
Peace Action Montgomery has won this battle twice before, at the County Council level. They can win again, if we help them.
You don’t have to live in Montgomery County, Maryland to help out. It’s time that all those who are tired of the military industrial complex and its influence over federal spending, budget priorities and public policy to stand up together and work to make sure companies like Lockheed Martin can’t continue to make “sweetheart tax deals.” All of our lives (and pocketbooks) are at stake!