I write from Annapolis where we have had a busy past two weeks; we have been working hard on the budget, school funding, off-shore wind, and other important measures.
As we wait to see what the budget will look like when it comes out of conference committee, I can tell you that, although I have some reservations, I feel the House plan does a good job protecting some of Maryland’s chief priorities: education, health care and job creation. It also continues our commitment to reduce spending. Last year, we cut ongoing spending by $800 million. This time, we added another $400 million in savings to that total.
How did we do it? Well, let me take this opportunity to clear one thing up: 87% of Marylanders will see no increase in their income taxes in the House plan. Raising revenue on the backs of the middle and working class is not an option for me. But I do think it is necessary in these difficult fiscal times to ask the well off amongst us to pay a little more.
As for the teacher pension shift, the House plan is in line with the proposal favored by the Maryland State Education Association. Instead of adopting Governor O’Malley’s 50/50 option, our plan shifts only 1/3 of the costs to the county, and only includes current employees. However, I am still concerned that this would be too intense of a burden on Montgomery County. To that end, I voted for an amendment by Delegate Barkley to further ease the pace of the shift. Unfortunately, we lacked enough votes to adopt the proposal.
We also worked on a Maintenance of Effort proposal that protects funding for our renowned public education system. The State has a duty to provide equitable funding to all students regardless of where they live. Over the past 10 years, we have doubled our investment in education from $2.9B to $5.8B. This is part of the reason our school systems are ranked first in the country. But we also recognize that, as we continue to recover from the recession, the counties need some added flexibility to apply for waivers when they can’t find the extra funding. This plan provides for that.
Additionally, we have been considering Governor O’Malley’s off-shore wind bill. As you may know, I am an ardent supporter of investing in clean energy. I feel this bill is a significant step towards making Maryland a leader in that regard. We need to find alternative fuel sources for the sake of our environment, and we need to find alternative economic opportunities for our citizens. Renewable energy investment accomplishes both these goals.
Lastly, my bill to treat intersections with non-functioning traffic signals as four-way stops is one step away from Governor O’Malley’s desk. This is a common sense solution to a serious traffic safety issue, and I am glad that we are addressing it this session.
Stay tuned for my final updates of the session over the next two weeks.
Delegate Shane Robinson (D-39)
6 Bladen St, Room 223
Annapolis, MD 21401