Gallery owner in Hunt Valley tells Comproller Peter Franchot taxes are hurting her business

Comptroller was encouraging local shopping

HUNT VALLEY, Md. - Its not often you get to go face to face and toe to toe with the man who collects our taxes – but one woman in Baltimore County took advantage of the opportunity on Thursday.

It started as a typical, public relations tour -- Comptroller Peter Franchot was touring local businesses in Hunt Valley, meeting with shoppers and touting the benefits of doing your holiday shopping in person, at local stores.

"My main message for people on the internet is don't you care about your fellow arylanders?  Don't you want to have them employed? And if you do, forget that internet for the holiday season."

Then, he met Victoria Salvano, at the Butler Gallery.

"Every time you raise it, you get less money," she said, pointing a finger at Franchot.

She was talking about Maryland's sales tax, which went from five cents on the dollar to six, back in 2008.

Franchot told Salvano he didn't support that increase, but she wasn't done.

"You know what happens in Maine?" she said.  "New Hampshire has liquor stores and gas stations lining the border. And everybody goes there and buys it. And that's what Maryland's going to be if you don't stop raising our taxes."

Afterward, Salvano told ABC-2 News she felt she had to take the opportunity to let her feelings be known.  "Since they've raised the sales tax I've sent them less and less tax because I have had less and less business," she said.

It's a complaint Patrick Donoho hears all the time.  "Oh I've heard it loud and clear," he said.  Donoho is the president of the Maryland Retailers Association.

"The sales tax increase in '08 couldn't have happened at a worse time. It was just when the economy was tanking, people cut back," he said.

That's why the association is pushing for the state to try to collect taxes on all purchases made over the internet.  Right now, only businesses with a location in Maryland have to pay -- which means if you buy something on a site like Amazon.com, there is no tax.

The comptroller says such a tax would be difficult to enforce, and could lead to lawsuits from those large on-line retailers, leaving Victoria Salvano wondering when whether her own personal recession will ever be ending.

"It's just you know, it's hard to stay in business," she said.

The comptroller said congress would have to change the federal law to allow states to collect taxes on all internet purchase.

By the way there appears to be no momentum at all in Annapolis right now to lower the sales tax *back* to five cents on the dollar.  Donoho said the state gets anywhere from six to seven-hundred million dollars a year, for each cent of that tax.

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