The 2015 Maryland General Assembly Session came to a close earlier this month. This is my fifth session serving in the General Assembly and it was, in my view, the most positive from a taxpayer perspective. In just three months since his inauguration, Governor Hogan has completely changed the conversation about spending and taxes in Annapolis.
The General Assembly had to seriously consider tax relief and the need to restrain and reduce the exponential growth in the budget.
My Republican colleagues and I fought hard to keep Gov. Hogan’s fiscally responsible budget intact and pass significant tax relief. Unfortunately, the General Assembly still has not completely gotten the message from Maryland taxpayers and there continue to be negotiations between Governor Hogan, who controls the purse strings of the state, and the Democratic leadership, about $200 million that they would like spent.
In negotiations that took place in the final days of the Session, Gov. Hogan offered to fund 75% of the optional education grant GCEI which goes primarily to larger jurisdictions (though Carroll would receive $1.2 million from it) – in exchange for restoring $75 million that was slated to be taken from state pension fund contributions. Unfortunately the Democratic leadership turned him down and are now trying to make him and those of us who support that position look like the villains. Hogan had originally proposed 50% GCEI funding. To put it in perspective, Gov. Ehrlich never funded GCEI and Gov. O’Malley twice funded it less than 100% – 0% and 30% during tough budget years.
Our state’s credit card is maxed out. Nearly a decade of borrowing and spending above our means has led to the need to make hard decisions. Contrary to what you may see on the news, education is not on the chopping block. There was a $109 million spending increase over last year. However, in order to get our state’s fiscal house in order, spending growth at all levels must be carefully evaluated and restrained. Saving a little this year sets the stage for much-needed tax relief and elimination of our long-term structural deficit.
I know you are counting on me to work tirelessly to improve our state. My door is open to hear your thoughts. Please contact me anytime. I always appreciate getting your input.