Archive for January, 2009

Maggie’s Legislative Update for January 20, 2009

Posted by quinn on January 20, 2009  |   Comments Off on Maggie’s Legislative Update for January 20, 2009

Dear Friends,

I’m particularly pleased to announce the opening of the 2009 Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you on this Inauguration Day that this is an exciting, historic time for our country. With the election of Barack Obama and the return of the presidency to Democratic hands, we can look forward to a much-desired, much-needed, and long overdue restoration of both progressive substance and collaborative tenor to American governance.

We had the privilege of taking part in that change this past Saturday, when President Obama made a stop in our own Baltimore City while following part of the same inaugural train route that brought Abraham Lincoln to the White House a century and a half ago. During his speech, he referred to the perseverance and idealism that have characterized the American people throughout our history, making particular mention of the troops stationed at Fort Henry who fended off the strongest navy in the world when it attacked our nation in its infancy during the War of 1812. Those troops came out on top of a situation that seemed insurmountable, and did so on the strength of their conviction that the American experiment was worth fighting for, and would ultimately reward all who took part in it.

Those were trying times then, and we are all aware that these are trying times now: as is the case in many other states, Maryland’s fiscal situation has been and will continue to be affected by the nation’s economic downturn, straining our ability to provide funds for many of the programs and services that would, in an ideal world, improve and maintain the quality of life that all Marylanders deserve. One of my priorities this session will be protecting the most important of those programs. I will work to preserve the safety net for citizens, including public health programs and healthcare services, while simultaneously working to address the increasing costs of rising unemployment and welfare. I will work to avoid deep cuts in University and K-12 funding. I will work to continue a robust capital program – hopefully with help from the Federal Stimulus package – to concentrate on roads, transportation, infrastructure, and schools. And I will work to lay the groundwork for Smart Growth, so that the development in which we invest will serve the long-term goals of sustaining communities both healthy and humane.

I want to hear from you throughout this process so that I can better serve you and your interests in Annapolis. You can send me your thoughts and concerns about legislation facing the General Assembly either by mail (at 6 Bladen St., Rm. 251, Annapolis, MD 21401) or email (maggie.mcintosh@house.state.md.us). For any constituent problems at the state level, please contact my District Manager, Quinn Gorman, who will be working out of the Environmental Matters office in Annapolis rather than our Baltimore District Office throughout the legislative session (410.841.3990, qgorman@house.state.md.us).

Thank you again for the honor of representing you in the House of Delegates, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Maggie McIntosh

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FY09 Budget/FY10 Fiscal Outlook

As I mentioned above, our nation is now facing one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression. This national economic crisis is affecting state and local governments across the country. Nationally, home sales are down 18.5% in 2008 and down 33.5% in Maryland. The national unemployment rate rose to 7.2% in December, and although still below the national average, Maryland’s unemployment rate rose to 5.3% in November. Complicating matters yet further is the fact that personal income has grown only 4.6% in the U.S. this year and 5.4% in Maryland. Yet, of the 29 states facing a collective $48 billion deficit in FY09, Maryland is in a better position than many to weather this crisis and continue to fund our priorities such as education, healthcare and public safety.

Part of the reason why this is the case is that Governor O’Malley and the General Assembly has taken swift action on the difficult (yet necessary) task of putting Maryland’s budget back in order. The final budget of the previous administration had a 12.5% increase in spending (FY07), the highest increase in over a decade. All told, spending increased 30.1% under the prior administration, setting the stage for last year’s special session.

The result of this spending would have led to a deficit in Maryland of almost $4 billion had we not enacted cuts and revenues during the past two years. Since January of 2007, Governor O’Malley and the legislature have cut nearly $2.2 billion from the state budget. Current estimates place the deficit at $1.9 billion for FY10. The biggest drivers of this deficit are weak personal income tax ($182M) and sales tax collections ($280M).

Steps already taken to mitigate impacts of the economic downturn on state government:

  • Governor O’Malley’s first two budgets have grown only 5.4% and 3.9% respectively, a near inflation rate.
  • Last year, the House Appropriations Committee pushed for a $243 million fund balance above the $749 million Rainy Day Fund.
  • The Board of Public Works cut $280 million in July and another $345 million in October for FY09.
  • Governor O’Malley required all eligible state employees to take a 2-5 day furlough based on salary schedule, saving the state an estimated $34 million in payroll. President Miller and Speaker Busch also implemented a mandatory furlough plan for legislative staff and encouraged legislators to consider donating a portion of their salary equal to 1-5 days of furlough.
  • The Spending Affordability Committee recommended a 0.7% ($146 million) budget increase for FY10, a historically low level that will require the legislature to make significant budget cuts. In order to preserve current service levels, Maryland would need a budget increase of $1.175 billion.
  • There is a surplus of $366 million in an income tax refund reserve account that is eligible for transfer to the general fund.
  • With Maryland’s Triple-A bond rating for over 40 years still intact, The Capital Debt Affordability Committee raised the ceiling to a maximum of $1.11 billion. We are committed to a robust capital budget that will include $250 million in school construction to put Marylanders to work and continue to provide quality education for our children.

The House of Delegates is the chamber that begins work on the budget first this year. The magnitude of this challenge will require us to scrutinize every expenditure and make the tough decisions necessary to close the $1.9 billion deficit while still protecting our priorities of education, healthcare and public safety. Maryland is constitutionally required to balance the budget at end of the fiscal year. It is our duty to make sure that Maryland state government continues to work on behalf of every Marylander, particularly in these tough economic times. The current economic recovery package proposed by Democratic Congressional Leaders, if passed, may provide some state aid that could factor in to FY10 budget planning.

Maryland is #1 in Education

Education Week recently ranked Maryland #1 in the United States in K-12 education in its 2009 Quality Counts Annual Report. Maryland had previously been ranked #3. Investment in early education and college readiness is a crucial component to our success, and since passage of the Bridge to Excellence Act in 2002, education funding has increased 82%. Governor O’Malley and the legislature began this term by fully funding the Thornton Commission formula, which accounts for 1/3 of the state’s entire general fund

Maryland Makes Significant Gains in College Affordability

Maryland’s positive educational reputation doesn’t stop at elementary and secondary education, however; Kiplinger has released their 100 Best Values in Public Colleges and four Maryland Public Schools made the list: The University of Maryland College at #9, St. Mary’s College of Maryland at #32, Salisbury University at #68, and Towson University at #90. Kiplinger has also recently named two of Maryland’s private institutions to their list of the 100 Best Values in Private Colleges, with Johns Hopkins University at #18 and Loyola College at #47.

In addition, five of Maryland’s public schools – Towson University, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, United States Naval Academy, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and Salisbury University – also made the Princeton Review’s and USA Today College Affordability Report’s Top 100.

We should be very proud of these rankings. In only a few short years, Maryland has gone from having the 6th highest public institution tuition rate to the 16th, in large part due to the tuition freeze instituted by Governor O’Malley since the 2006 academic year.