Happy holidays from my family to yours. I hope you and your loved ones are able to get a bit of a break and can enjoy the holiday season. Scroll down for information about the District 16 send-off and my legislative update.
On Sunday, January 7th at 4:00pm, the District 16 team will be holding an online legislative town hall send-off in advance of the legislative session. If you are interested, please register here.
COMMITTEE UPDATEAs regular readers know, I am now the chair of the House Environment and Transportation Committee, one of just six standing committees in the House of Delegates. We recently held our first official briefing of my tenure on the topics of Implementation of the Climate Solutions Now Act and Housing Issues for the 2024 legislative session. You can watch the hearing here. And the presentations are available here.
Most bill hearings take place during the legislative session but local bills are heard in December. You can check out all of the Montgomery County local bills for the 2024 legislative session here.
During the hearing last month, I presented a bill that relates to the Washington Suburban Transit Commission and making some reforms to that body and its relationship with our Metro system.
You can watch that evening's hearing here.
Last week, several of the meetings that set the stage for the annual state budget process took place.
First, the state Board of Revenue Estimates (BRE)--the Comptroller, State Treasurer, and State Budget Secretary--met to refine its estimates for Fiscal Year 2025 and beyond. As the State Treasurer said at the meeting, not much has changed since the last revenue forecast. But the meeting materials discuss the slowing of sales tax revenue.
The BRE presentation can be reviewed here.
The full meeting can be watched here.
Second, the legislature's Spending Affordability Committee--which I used to chair--met and set the guidelines for the next state budget. The recommendations include:
-At least 8.5% of general fund revenue set aside in the rainy day fund
-Fund balance (leftover unspent funds) of $100m
-$1.75b capital budget
-Goal of reducing structural (out year projected) deficit by one third
You can review the full slate of recommendations here.
Related to the overall budget discussion is some recent transportation-related news.
First, the Metro General Manager recently proposed his fiscal year 2025 budget. Metro is projecting an operating budget shortfall and as one of the funding jurisdictions, Maryland is at the table with Virginia and D.C. to determine what type of Metro system we want to have and pay for. The proposed budget packet is available here.
Just to share a few thoughts:
-The drivers of the projected deficit are largely outside of Metro’s control such as inflation and the pandemic. The decision to rebate the jurisdictions contributions early in the pandemic was in Metro’s control. It was understandable at the time but has repercussions.
-The value of Metro’s funding erodes over time, even in long periods of low inflation, when the dollar amounts are fixed.
-Some of Metro’s internal belt tightening is shown but there’s a limit to what doesn’t require service cuts and fare increases.
-The proposed budget has extreme service cuts and fare increases proposed in case Maryland, Virginia and DC do not step up. Maryland has already signaled it will in coordination with the other states, even in the context of a difficult funding environment.
-One service cut we should want to avoid—and avoiding all service cuts and fare increases is not practical in my view, is restoring turnbacks on the Red Line.
Second, the Maryland Department of Transportation released their updated draft transportation budget, which you can read here. This is kicking off a conversation that should have started on September 1 with the submission of the draft. My view on the proposal is summed up in this quote.
I am pleased that the Administration has left space for Maryland's commitment to the DC area Metro system and its needs (described above). And Metro is doing its own belt tightening that only shows up in our state budget as a final number, not a series of cuts as you see for other modes.
But clearly the cuts are significant. Montgomery County will lose out on $3m in "Highway User Revenue," the local share of the gas tax, and $17m in Local Operating Transit Systems support. To say nothing of various other mothballed projects. And that is just the parochial view. Clearly there are similar priorities and impacts across the state.
Congratulations to the new County Council President Andrew Friedson and Vice President Kate Stewart. We are excited to have both the President and Vice President from council districts that overlap District 16.
Congratulations to District 16's Elizabeth Kellar on her appointment to the Montgomery County Ethics Commission.
Now in its 28th year, the Lazarus Leadership Fellows Program prepares high school sophomores and juniors for their citizenship responsibilities. The Lazarus Fellows have provided 77,000 hours of service to our community since 1997. Fifteen students are selected each year to participate in nine seminars with community leaders in the Spring and then perform 200 hours of community service in the Summer. Based at B-CC High School, the program is open to sophomores and juniors who live or go to school in the greater B-CC community. For information, go to the Lazarus Leadership Fellows page on the B-CC HS website (under Activities Quick Links) or email program founder Bruce Adams at email@example.com. To access the Lazarus 2024 Brochure click here. The application deadline for the 2024 program is Sunday January 7.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.