Wonderment

Montgomery County, Maryland, is home to many affluent feeders at the government trough. As is Fairfax County, Virginia, just over the Potomac River, in God’s Country. OK, don’t show your bias just yet, John-boy.

Both counties are affluent; both have many people who work for the G or depend on government contracts (“Beltway Bandits” is politically incorrect; they’re now called “Highway Helpers.”) There are differences in culture between the two, and Montgomery is significantly more liberal than Fairfax.

Both counties have prospered, even in these economic hard times. The nearby presence of Big Government is part of the reason. But both are in competition for business. Yet Fairfax always seems to come out on top.

Here’s what Montgomery County’s economic development director opined (via Washington Examiner):

“They [Fairfax] don’t have an Ag Reserve, they don’t have a local income tax, they have an airport…” (emphasis added)

Don’t know what the “Ag Reserve” is; presumably has to do with farm subsidies required under Maryland law. As for not having an airport, neither, of course, does Fairfax. Dulles Airport is in Loudoun County. One could argue that having an international airport right next door might give business travelers from Fairfax a slight edge.

The reality is that Dulles has become a nightmare of an airport. Baltimore-Washington Airport, not that far from Montgomery County, is actually much better for actual business travel. I’d call that a wash. Plus, people from Montgomery who can’t find Washington National Airport ought not be in business to begin with…

Then there’s the whopper: Fairfax doesn’t have a local income tax. The economic director of Montgomery County may have just fallen into his job from Upside-Down land, if he thinks that having higher income taxes will help lure businesses.

Perhaps he misspoke. Perhaps he was off his meds. Perhaps he’s merely an incompetent who has no grasp of what makes a business venue attractive for its management.

Montgomery County, along with most other Maryland counties, tacks on a 50% surcharge to the Maryland state income tax. The basic Maryland income tax rate is about the same as Virginia’s, but there’s no local add-on in our Commonwealth. So, all things being equal, one’s personal income taxes will be about one-third lower in Virginia than Maryland.

Then there’s the corporate income tax. Maryland’s is about two percent higher than Virginia’s. Hmm, says the business owner: where should I start or move my business to in order to have lower operating costs?

I know, for the economic director of Montgomery County that’s an unfair question.

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