Governor O’Malley recently called a special session of the Maryland General Assembly which drew to a close yesterday afternoon with the passage of the Budget and Reconciliation Financing Act and the revenue bills. Had these bills not passed, $436 million in additional cuts to the state budget would have gone into effect this year. Make no mistake: These pieces of legislation were far from perfect, but the alternative was far worse.
What would have happened had we not acted? $436 million in cuts with the following consequences:
- Job losses in the private sector. The highly successful $8 million biotechnology research and development tax credit, and the $10.4 million stem cell research program would have both been eliminated; disproportionately and negatively affecting Montgomery County.
- Job losses in the public sector. Approximately 400 state jobs would have been eliminated, and state employees would have been forced to pay an additional $15 million for healthcare benefits.
- Potential downgrade of Maryland’s AAA bond rating. Maryland is one of only three states that has maintained a AAA bond rating since the ratings began.
- A 10-13% increase in college tuition. In Maryland, college tuition is still affordable for middle class families. Keeping higher education affordable is a must if we are to maintain our educated and qualified workforce–a serious economic advantage.
- A 10% cut in community college funding. Our community colleges are some of the best in the country. Maintaining this affordable option is common sense, and the right thing to do.
- A $138 million cut in K-12 education funding through the elimination of the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI) which is a primary reason Maryland public schools have been ranked number one in the nation four years running.
- A $20.8 million cut in local law enforcement funding.
The list goes on and on. To help avoid this we raised income taxes on individuals making over $100,000, and families making over $150,000. 84% of Marylanders did not have their taxes increased.
Was this a difficult vote for me? Yes. Do I think I made the right call? Absolutely. In these fiscal times we are faced with profoundly laborious decisions. But in these times we are also left to answer who we want to be as a people, as a community, as a state. When times are tough do we have the will to buckle down and protect our number one ranked school system, the safety of our communities, our investments in the future, our higher education systems, the safety of those most in need? Yesterday shows that we do.