Trio of Tax Refund Intercept Bills Advancing

A trio of bills authorizing programs to withhold income tax refunds from people with outstanding warrants are working their way through the General Assembly. As previously reported on Conduit Street, these bills are based upon a pilot program that found success in Anne Arundel County. SB 653, as amended by the Senate, expands the pilot program state-wide with an option for local governments to participate.  HB 217 expands the program to Washington County and HB 313 expands the program to Baltimore City.  As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake asked for Baltimore’s version of the bill as a means to help serve warrants more efficiently, said Kevin R. Harris, a spokesman for the mayor.

“Anne Arundel County has had some success with this approach, and the mayor is very interested in applying similar methods in Baltimore City,” Harris said in a statement.

The program has the blessing of Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, who worked with Bateman to test the program last year.

Franchot says it costs no taxpayer dollars and has the benefit of serving hundreds of warrants in a safe, controlled fashion. Refunds can be mailed as soon as a warrant is settled, “even if we have to send it to jail,” he added.

Serving warrants is a seemingly never-ending task for sheriffs’ deputies across the state. In Anne Arundel, Bateman inherited a backlog of more than 13,000 warrants when he was elected in 2006. He now has a backlog of 8,700 warrants and gets 800 to 1,000 new warrants per month.

“You’re just treading water,” he said.

Both HB 217 and HB 313 were voted favorably out of the House and are set to be heard March 25 in the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee. SB 653 was voted favorably with amendments out of the Senate and heard in the House Ways & Means Committee on March 18.  MACo opposed the bill in its initial iteration imposing a mandate on local governments to participate in the program,  but supported the Senate amendments enabling local governments to participate. MACo will continue to advocate for the local option amendment in the House.
For more information, read the full article in The Baltimore Sun.