“How Can You Have Any Pudding If You Don’t Eat Your Meat?”

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I was recently forwarded a copy of an email with a statistical assessment of the Comptroller’s office in handling tax filings. Also included was a further assessment of the staffing levels of the office. Please note that these statistics are from the Comptroller’s office itself, so we can assume they’re accurate.

There are around 95,000 backlogged tax filings, approximately 2/3 of them for more than a month, and over 20,000 by more than three months. Seems like a lot to me.

Additionally, there are 132 unfilled positions in the agency, well over half in revenue administration and compliance. Which may or may not be directly related to the backlogs, but it certainly seems like a logical conclusion that they are intertwined.

OK, my view.

I have never subscribed to the theory that the Comptroller should collect taxes and otherwise shut up. I know there are those who do believe this, but the Comptroller also sits on the powerful Board of Public Works, which reviews just about everything that the State of Maryland either does or spends money on. Peter Franchot campaigned on the idea that he wanted to use the “bully pulpit” of the office to speak out on issues beyond taxes, and he most certainly has kept that promise. It may occasionally devolve more into “bully” than “pulpit,” but that’s a question of degree, not kind.

But I think there should be general agreement that the first if not the only job of the Comptroller is taxes. Call it the Prime Directive (Star Trek nerd alert). Take care of that and then you can go outside and play.

Or, in a more musical vein, the age old question posed by Pink Floyd comes to mind. “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?”

So while we wait breathlessly to see if Larry Hogan gives the Comptroller his long-sought wish to dictate to 23 counties and Baltimore City when school should start, I don’t think it’s unfair at all to look at these statistics and say “before we get to dessert, sir, how about we take care of that big pile of uneaten vegetables over there?”

Just one blogger’s opinion. YMMV.

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