As we head into fall, preparation for the 2017 legislative session continues. I will be speaking to a number of community groups, civic associations, and other community members over the next few months about state issues. If you know of a group that would like to hear from one of their state legislators, please let me know.
You can always keep up with what I am doing by following me at @mkorman on Twitter or clicking "Like" on Delegate Marc Korman on Facebook.
Most of the legislature's hearings take place during the 90 day session, but there are some meetings throughout the rest of the year. In August, the Appropriations Committee (on which I serve) and the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee held a joint briefing on the recent pay raise and bonus for the Chancellor of the University System of Maryland. The hearing can be viewed here.
Maryland's Comptroller has issued the year-end closeout report for fiscal year 2016 (which ended June 30th). The closeout report essentially reflects the Governor and legislature's budget decisions and the economic climate. Maryland ended the year with a $196.4 million fund balance (meaning funds that are not being spent for a particular purpose). While it is great to have cash on hand, that actual figure is down from the projected balance of $551.3 million.
The complete report is available at the end of the Comptroller's statement. It also shows a "rainy day" fund approaching $1 billion.
The big news of the past few weeks seems to be the Governor's Executive Order that schools in each local jurisdiction should begin after Labor Day and end by June 15th. Assuming the order withstands legal scrutiny, this will require Montgomery County Public Schools to "find" eight days in the 2017-2018 school calendar in order to fit the current 180 day required class schedule plus built-in potential snow days into the new calendar.
Garnering far less attention is the Hogan Administration's threat to withdraw from the successful anti-climate change initiative, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI is a cap and trade program for power plants in Maryland and several northeastern states. According to the Washington Post, "Carbon emissions from states in the pact have fallen dramatically, from 122 million tons in 2009 to 83 million tons in 2015. The reduction is 16 percent greater than in states that haven’t joined the initiative, according to an analysis by the Acadia Center, which advocates for clean energy. The analysis also says electricity prices have decreased 3.4 percent on average for participating states, while rising elsewhere." The Hogan Administration is threatening to unilaterally withdraw from RGGI, something they are allowed to do under state law. Combined with the Governor's veto of the increase to the state's renewable energy goals, serious questions are being raised as to whether the Governor wants Maryland to work against climate change. Maryland cannot do it alone of course, but we should be a part of the solution and not the problem.
The state of Maryland pension system has announced its fiscal year 2016 return. The pension fund is obviously important for state employees and retirees, but how it performs also affects the size of the actuarially required payment the state must make with your tax dollars each year. The annual return for fiscal year 2016 was 1.16%, a sub par annual return (although it is important to not get too caught up in annual fluctuations of a long-term investment).
The pension's worst investment category this past year was public equity and its best was private equity. The press release is available as the first link here (as of 9/7/16).
Along with Delegates David Moon and Erek Barron, I helped organized a letter to Metro from 40 Montgomery County and Prince George's County elected officials regarding the proposal to permanently eliminate late night weekend service and cut back on typical Sunday evening service. Metro claims this proposal is to allow for more maintenance, but the entire system cannot be worked on simultaneously. Click here to read the letter.
There has also been some local press coverage on the issue.
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