Moving the Budget
The one piece of business the General Assembly is required to address each year is the annual budget. This year's budget originates in the House of Delegates. As I have shared before, the Appropriations Committee, on which I serve, considers the budget through different subject matter subcommittees. I chair the Subcommittee on Transportation and the Environment. Last week, each subcommittee made its recommendations to the full Appropriations Committee which passed the budget on a bipartisan basis. You can read the reports of each subcommittee here:
As I have shared before, this year's budget fully funds the various statutory formulas in law for public education (including $1.1 billion in aid for Montgomery County Public Schools); is balanced, as required by Maryland laws; holds tuition increases at the University System of Maryland to 2% and fully funds the state's community college funding formula; and more. Combined with the state capital budget, it also funds school construction, parks infrastructure, and transportation projects.
This action on the budget comes just after our state's Board of Revenue Estimates made some revisions to the current and next fiscal year provisions. They expect less growth in both the income and sales taxes and noted that the state's economic strength was a little weaker than the country as a whole. It's a $477m reduction across both fiscal years (out of an almost $25b general fund). Of course, we have to balance our budget every year so we adjusted the budget described above to account for this. The slide deck from the BRE's meeting is available here.
Three more of my bills passed the House of Delegates last week: The Maryland State Agency Transparency Act, which would expand certain Open Meetings Act requirements--including web streaming of meetings--to the State Ethics Commission; The Young Readers Program Expansion Act, which would build on a program created last year to support county-based programs that send books to young Marylanders; and the Board of Public Works Public Comment Act, which would bring new transparency to items voted on by the Board of Public Works.
This week, the House will take up my legislation, the State and Federal Transportation Funding Act. The bill authorizes grant anticipation financing (known as GARVEE or GAN) for some of the state's largest transportation projects.
Several major initiatives passed the House of Delegates last week:
-Family Prosperity Act: Tax legislation that permanently extends the state's Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.
-Reproductive Freedom Constitutional Amendment: This will place on the ballot next year a constitutional amendment regarding reproductive freedom.
-Cannabis Reform: The bill puts in place the licensing, regulatory, and taxation framework for the recreational cannabis market authorized by the voters last year.
And this week we will be taking up firearm safety legislation as the state responds to the Bruen Supreme Court decision. The bill modifies the qualifications for a wear and carry permit in Maryland.
Earlier this week, State Treasurer Davis announced that Maryland had retained its AAA bond rating from all three major ratings agencies. Although these bond rating agencies do not always get it right, their view does impact the cost Maryland pays to borrow for construction projects. The ratings reports also provide a nice little fiscal check-in. You can read all three of the reports here.There's actually a minor error in the Fitch report, as it says that Maryland "established the nation's first taxes on digital goods and downloads, including advertising." That's only half right, the digital advertising was the first in the nation and currently under litigation but many states preceded Maryland in taxing digital goods and digital downloads.
The reports all emphasize their appreciation for Maryland's fiscal management policies and that is a big part of why we get strong ratings.
The vendor for the I-495/I-270 private toll lanes project has announced that they are withdrawing from the project. The current Administration has made clear that they plan to continue the project in some form, relying on the environmental documentation and Record of Decision obtained last year. Because of the method by which the vendor withdrew, the state owes them no funds and the vendor owes no funds to the state. Whatever you think of the project or the use of Public Private Partnerships (P3), let me just suggest that large multi-national companies do not just walk away from multi-billion dollar projects without a fight. But the reality of this project has always been that the P3 could not do what the Hogan Administration said it could do: magically solve traffic at no net cost to the taxpayers. This is something even the Hogan Administration acknowledged late in the game when they sought a federal bridge grant (that MD was not awarded) on their way out the door. As I told the media, “I trust we will now have a more honest and cooperative process.” Read an article about the project change.
In a prior email, I shared the news that former District 16 Delegate Marilyn Goldwater passed away. The Washington Post recently published an obituary on her passing.
State legislators have the opportunity to award scholarships to our constituents for their higher education. If you are interested in a scholarship, please visit https://www.marckorman.com/scholarship.html for further information about how to apply.
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