Last week the Governor introduced his proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2024. Although I no longer serve on the Appropriations Committee, I recognize the importance of the state budget as it reflects our priorities and values. The budget is made up of three parts:
-Operating Budget: These are funds for people and programs, such as state education aid.
-Capital Budget: This is the state construction budget, such as to build schools or hospitals.
-The Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (BRFA): This is a piece of legislation necessary to balance the budget and alters provisions of state statute as necessary to do so, typically to adjust statutory budget formulas.
The complete budget as proposed by the Governor can be found here.
The non-partisan Department of Legislative Services prepares a fiscal briefing on the budget each year. The briefing materials can be found here and the briefing can be watched here.
Some relevant highlights of the budget are:
-The budget is balanced--as it must be each year--and actually reduces spending from the prior year by 1.7%.
-All pre-k through 12th grade education funding formulas are fully funded, including $1.1 billion in state support for Montgomery County Public Schools.
-There is a modification to the community college formula to reduce it based on enrollment.
-$90 million is being allocated to implementation of the Climate Solutions Now Act to help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
-The budget contains important capital support relevant to District 16 including $3 million for a second entrance to the North Bethesda Metro Station, $2 million for a new building for the University System of Maryland Institute for Health Computing in North Bethesda, and $2.7 million for Walt Whitman High School upgrades.
-The Rainy Day Fund will be maintained at 9.4% of General Fund revenue (a few years ago a 5% Rainy Day Fund was considered strong).
-The full actuarially required contribution to the state pension is being made.
-A one-time $150 million withdrawal from the Rainy Day Fund will mitigate some of the transportation budget cuts I have previously written about, which in Montgomery County means no cut to state support for the Ride On system, no cuts to MARC Commuter Rail Brunswick Line service, the launch of expanded service on the Brunswick Line, maintenance of Motor Vehicle Administration Saturday hours, and no cut to trash clean-up and mowing along state highways.
-Although the budget is balanced as it must be every year, future year deficits are projected. Although this has been the historic norm since the Great Recession, it is worth noting.
I have formally introduced two more pieces of legislation.
Port of Baltimore - Renaming (HB 375) officially renames the state's port the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore, something done 20 years ago via Executive Order but never codified in statute.
The Open Source Phonics Matching Grant Program Act (HB 475) was brought to me by a constituent to help give parents access to open source phonics-based teaching tools to support childhood literacy.
As I wrote last week, the Montgomery County Delegation meets most Fridays early in the legislative session to consider local bills (bills that only affect Montgomery County).We also hear from governmental guest speakers at those meeting and last week we heard from State's Attorney John McCarthy. The State's Attorney shared information about juvenile crime in Montgomery County and you can view the discussion here.
I am one of 20 Jewish legislators in the Maryland General Assembly and we have recently formed a Jewish Caucus to advocate for policies important to the Jewish communities of Maryland. You can read all about it here.
As part of the state budget we require the Maryland Transit Administration to submit bimonthly Purple Line status reports. Below is a progress chart which includes a new metric for progress on reconstructing the Capital Crescent Trail. The full report is available here.
The Bethesda Chevy Chase Democratic Breakfast Club has a series of upcoming meetings. To obtain links for any of the below, please email email@example.com:
-Monday, February 5 at 7:30am: Council President Andrew Friedson
-March 4, at 7:30am: Lisa Taylor, Chair of the Montgomery County Committee Against Hate/Violence
-April 10, at 7:30am: District 18 state legislators
Congratulations to several District 16 residents recently appointed or re-appointed to County Boards and Commissions:
Commission on Common Ownership Communities: Stephen Kraskin
County-wide Recreation and Parks Advisory Board: Edward Krauze
Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs: Nurith Berstein-Rosales; Carol Lubin; and Thomas Jackson
Taxicab Services Commission: Elizabeth Ellis
Bethesda Downtown Implementation Advisory Committee: David Yampolsky; Naomi Spinrad; and Michael Fetchko.
Two District 16 residents have been re-appointed to the leadership of the Montgomery County Republican Party: Lori Jaffe and Monte Gingery. We may be of different political parties but we share one political system, so congratulations to Lori and Monte.
Although not a big issue in our Washington Post-reading area, the Baltimore Sun was recently sold and the new ownership announced that the paper would no longer endorse political candidates. This had me reflecting on the most famous newspaper endorsement in Maryland political history: the Baltimore Evening Sun's front page endorsement of former state legislator and Transportation Secretary (Maryland's first one in fact) Harry Hughes in the Democratic Primary for Governor in 1978. The endorsement is largely credited with his primary win (including over the ticket of Blair Lee III (from Montgomery County) and Steny Hoyer. You can read about that and more in the autobiography of former Maryland Governor Harry Hughes, My Unexpected Journey.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.