FEDERAL BUCKS: Maryland will see hundreds of millions in federal cash to build the Red Line, dredge the port of Baltimore and clear a backlog of rape kits, among other provisions in a massive budget deal reached by congressional negotiators Tuesday night, reports Erin Cox in the Sun. The $1.1 trillion deal under consideration by the House of Representatives would avert a federal shutdown, and in the process funnel millions to key Maryland transportation projects and initiatives.
BRAKES ON STATE CENTER? A state Senate committee decided Tuesday to urge the state Board of Public Works to withhold approval of the first phase of the $1.5 billion State Center renovation if the project could push the state over its self-imposed debt limit. The board is expected to take up critical changes to the project at its Dec. 17 meeting, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.
AGENCY FISCAL FIXES: State agencies are doing a better job at correcting past financial problems found by audits, the legislature’s top auditor told lawmakers Tuesday. The improved performance appears to be a result of legislators withholding appropriations until repeat audit findings have been fixed, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.
HOGAN BLASTS MIDNIGHT ACTIONS: Gov.-elect Larry Hogan on Tuesday renewed his objections to outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley issuing major regulations and taking other controversial actions in the waning weeks of his tenure. “I’m very opposed to all of these important decisions being made in the midnight hour of this administration,” Hogan told reporters following a meeting in Annapolis with the state’s five Republican county executives, reports John Wagner in the Post.
HOGAN MEETS GOP EXECS: In a “get-to-know-you session” Tuesday, Gov.-elect Larry Hogan met with Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh and four other Republican county executives to discuss issues facing their counties and the state. The main concerns raised were the need for money from the Highway User Fund, the state’s heroin epidemic and the pending $900 million state revenue shortfall, writes Chase Cook for the Annapolis Capital.
BUSCH ON TAX REFORM: House Speaker Michael Busch isn’t ruling out changes to Maryland’s tax structure, but he says the state’s obligations for education funding will make it difficult, writes Rick Seltzer for the Baltimore Business Journal. “I’m all for tax reform if you do it in a comprehensive way that’s going to meet the needs of the budget,” Busch, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, said Monday at Stevenson University’s Maryland Rising economic development forum.
HOGAN-FRANCHOT ALLIANCE: Gov. elect Larry Hogan will likely have an ally on the Board of Public Works in Comptroller Peter Franchot, who is fiscally much more aligned with the Republicans than with his own party, write Jenna Johnson of the Post.
- The editorial board for the Sun recognizes the prized position that Franchot finds himself in at this point, opining that Franchot, who has spent the last eight years as a voice of dissent to the O’Malley administration, usually in vain, will now have the chance to become the swing vote between Hogan and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, who is appointed by the Democrat-controlled legislature.
END OF BLUE DOGS: In an exhaustive essay for Center Maryland, Clayton A. Mitchell Sr. writes that “my whole life I have been a traditional conservative “Blue Dog” Eastern Shore Democrat, in the tradition of my father (R. Clayton Mitchell, Jr.), Thomas Hunter Lowe and Walter Baker. Even as the Eastern Shore became more Republican, I stubbornly held on to the belief that there was room in the Maryland Democratic Party for a fiscally conservative member. I was wrong.”
WA CO DELEGATION HOLDS PUBLIC HEARING: A buoyant Washington County legislative delegation listened to elected officials, business leaders and residents Tuesday during a marathon day of meetings in preparation for the start of next month’s session of the Maryland General Assembly, writes Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Delegation members said that with the election of Republican Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, the 90-day session in Annapolis could be a promising one for the county.
O’MALLEY ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: “Can Martin O’Malley selfie his way to the White House?” asks this National Journal article by Shane Goldmacher. The outgoing Maryland governor is prepping and documenting it, one blurry Facebook post at a time, says the underliner.
MO CO FISCAL FORECAST: Montgomery officials delivered a downbeat fiscal forecast to the County Council Tuesday, reporting that if lower-than-expected tax revenues continue their current trajectory, county departments would have to take a 6.1% spending cut ($238 million) to produce a balanced budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, Bill Turque of the Post is reporting.
KAMENETZ & INCLUSION: In his second inaugural address last week, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said that he wants county residents to feel that their local government represents them all. WYPR-FM’s Joel McCord and John Lee talk about why this message of inclusion matters in the wake of protests around the country and how Kamenetz hopes to accomplish his goal.
HARFORD COUNCIL SHIELD: New Harford County Council President Richard Slutzky on Tuesday defended his proposal that would create a roadblock between constituents and elected representatives within council chambers, Bryna Zumer writes for the Aegis. During a regular meeting of the council in Bel Air, Slutzky explained his stance, citing security as the primary reason why he would prefer that residents and media be barred from approaching the dais after meetings adjourn.
- The move had immediately stirred an outcry Tuesday from residents and advocates of open government, who said the policy flouts the nation’s founding democratic principles, writes Yvonne Wenger and Bryna Zumer in the Sun. “I never heard of such a thing, and obviously I am totally against it. How else can you get information from them?” said Bel Air resident Bill Wehland, a regular at meetings who often approached council members afterward and always felt welcomed.
SCHUH OFFERS PEP TALK: When Steve Schuh talks about the plan on which he campaigned, he holds up three fingers to count off as he says he intends to make Anne Arundel County the best place to “live, work and start a business” in Maryland. Rema Rahman of the Annapolis Capital reports that on Tuesday, eight days after being sworn in, the newly elected Republican county executive brought his message to department heads, executive staff and education and public safety leaders at the Arundel Center during his administration’s first Cabinet meeting.