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Maryland Governor Defends 'Millionaires' Tax', Denies Job Losses

Martin O'Malley (D)
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Martin O'Malley (D)

Last month, we reported on data that suggested that a temporary "millionaires' tax" had chased millionaires out of Maryland.

The report, by the anti-tax group Change Maryland, sparked a firestorm in the state and prompted a vigorous defense by the state’s governor, Martin O’Malley, who said the state remains an economic powerhouse despite its taxes.

Now, a new set of data on job loss in the state is likely escalate the battle even more – highlighting the broader, national debate over taxing the wealthy.

Change Maryland is citing new job figures that show Maryland losing more than 10,000 jobs this year – more than any state in the nation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said Maryland lost 11,000 jobs in June alone -- the third worst performance in the nation.

Change Maryland says the state’s high taxes and fees make it one of the most highly taxed states in the nation and have chased away jobs and job creators. The “millionaires' tax,” which imposed a top rate of 6.25 percent on people making $1 million or more, expired in 2011, but there is talk of reviving it.

"I'm deeply concerned that state government's onslaught of taxes and fees is causing us to
lose businesses, jobs and taxpayers at an alarming rate," said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan.

He says Maryland has raised taxes and fees 24 times since 2007, costing the state economy $2.4 billion.

Change Maryland also says Maryland has lost 40,000 jobs since 2007 – more than any state in the region other than Pennsylvania.

Governor O'Malley responded that the state has lost only 1,200 jobs this year, and that Change Maryland’s numbers don’t include January, which showed strong job gains. The state had 25,000 more jobs in June compared to the same month in 2011, the governor said.

What’s more, he said, the state had 6,000 more millionaires in 2011 than it did in 2007, bringing its total millionaire count to 157,779, according to data from Phoenix Marketing International. The state has the highest percentage of millionaires in the country, according to Phoenix.

In another blog post responding to this week's numbers, O'Malley's office said that while the state would like employment to be higher, its 6.9 percent unemployment rate is lower than the nation’s. He said the state's economic indicators show "positive trends."

Either way, however, Maryland’s June numbers suggest that it’s job loss may be more extreme than the rest of the country’s – whether taxes are to blame or not.

-By CNBC's Robert Frank
Follow Robert Frank on Twitter:
@robtfrank