Maggie’s Legislative Update: March 21, 2016

Posted by Matt on March 21, 2016  |   Comments Off on Maggie’s Legislative Update: March 21, 2016

Friends,

Tonight culminates in one of the busiest times of the entire legislative calendar. Not only is today the “crossover deadline” – the date by which a bill must pass and “cross over” to the other chamber in order to be guaranteed a hearing – but it’s also the evening I will introduce the Fiscal Year 2017 budget on the House floor.

Before I tell you about the budget bill, I want to let you know how lucky I am to chair a committee made up of some of the hardest-working delegates, from both parties, Annapolis has ever seen. Delegate Tawanna Gaines is in her first year as Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee and has been an invaluable partner to me. Delegate Kirill Reznik of Montgomery County joined the committee after the session had already begun, but hit the ground running and did a great job as chair of the Health & Human Resources subcommittee.

Former Appropriations Chairman Pete Rawlings frequently stated that the philosophy of the Appropriations Committee is to produce a budget that is fiscally prudent and socially responsible. We take those words seriously, and I am confident that this year’s budget achieves both goals. This budget is fiscally prudent, leaving more than $1.4 billion in cash and reserves and sticking within the guidelines established by the Spending Affordability Committee. It is also socially responsible, providing full funding for K-12 education, increasing support for drug treatment and mental health services, and providing a framework for our public safety agencies to reform our criminal justice system.

Some of the budget highlights include:

  • Nearly $10 billion in funding for Medicaid. Over 1.2 million more residents have access to affordable health care thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
  • Over $6.3 billion in aid for public schools. This includes full funding for the Geographic Cost of Education Index, and additional aid for jurisdictions – such as Baltimore City – that have seen declining enrollments.
  • An increase of $63 million for developmentally disabled services.
  • Additional support for higher education – including community colleges – to help keep tuition increases in check and make college more affordable.

The budget bill is expected to be debated on the House floor Tuesday and Wednesday. Later this week, I’ll have a more thorough update on the budget, and information about the Capital Budget bill.

Other Important Legislation This Week:

HB 1047, Earned Income Tax Credit Expansion: Maryland’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a vital program for low to moderate-income working individuals and couples, particularly those with children.  In 2013, the EITC lifted approximately 6.2 million people out of poverty including 3.2 million children nationwide.  Under current law, a worker must be between the ages of 25 and 64 to claim the tax credit. This legislation expands the eligibility age to 21 years olds, increases the existing income thresholds to allow more people to receive a greater tax credit, and matches the value of the federal credit for childless workers.

HB 1003, Labor and Employment – Equal Pay for Equal Work: The House of Delegates passed legislation on Equal Pay for Equal Work. Nationally, women are paid 79 cents of what men are paid.  We passed pay equity legislation 93-47 today to allow workers to disclose their wages to determine if there is discrimination.  If the bill is enacted, Maryland will join eleven states with pay equity laws that contain wage disclosure provisions similar to those in our bill.

HB 1014, College Affordability Act of 2016: Over the past 10 years, the legislature has limited tuition increases at Maryland’s colleges, bringing Maryland’s undergraduate tuition at four-year institutions from 7th most expensive in the nation to the 24th least expensive. But college is still expensive, and we can do more to make a college education an attainable reality for all Marylanders.

HB 1014 makes it easier for low-income families to participate in Maryland’s 529 college savings plans, creates a Student Loan Debt Relief tax credit for those with excess student loans, and creates incentives for students to graduate on time.

Have a wonderful week,

maggie sig

 

 

Maggie