BUDGET SHORTFALL SWELLS: A two-year budget shortfall facing Gov.-elect Larry Hogan (R) swelled to nearly $1.2 billion on Monday after a state panel revised its forecasts for tax collections to reflect still-sluggish growth in the state’s economy, reports John Wagner for the Post.
- Erin Cox of the Sun writes that the new numbers suggest the state must trim more than $420 million before the fiscal year ends in June, and an additional nearly $750 million out of the first budget Hogan will submit next year. A spokesman said that Gov. Martin O’Malley does not have plans to formally cut the state’s current budget during December, and that the governor is “still evaluating what additional action might make sense.”
- Bryan Sears of the Daily Record quotes Board of Public works member Comptroller Peter Franchot: “It is yet another reminder that we haven’t turned the corner from the worst economic downturn in our lifetimes and that we continue to experience one of the slowest, most anemic economic recoveries any of us has ever seen.”
- The latest round of adjustments are almost evenly split between changes to the current 2015 fiscal year that started in July and the next fiscal year. The board wrote down 2015 revenue estimates by $123.2 million and 2016 estimates by $147.9 million, reports Rick Seltzer for the Baltimore Business Journal. That leaves general fund revenue estimates at $15.7 billion for 2015 and $16.2 billion for 2016.
- John Rydell of WBFF-TV reports that Franchot blames the sluggish economic outlook on stagnant wages, which grew by just 1.5% in 2014. “Year-to-year withholdings in the current fiscal year alone fell $54 million below our already low expectations, which has caused us to further temper our projections moving forward,” said Franchot.
NO EASY BUDGET FIX: In Monday’s column, Barry Rascovar claimed that an “easy budget fix” for Maryland would be to stop projecting revenues in favor of using a previous year’s levels, and shifting the fiscal year from July-June to January-December. His arguments are greatly flawed, political science professor Roy Meyers explains why in this column for MarylandReporter.com.
ED FUNDING FIGHT? Gov.-elect Larry Hogan faces a potential battle with the General Assembly if he decides to cut funding to education, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. Hogan said last week that he would consider resetting some formulas for mandated spending including those that go toward education. More than 80% of the state’s budget is governed by such mandates. But state fiscal leaders in the General Assembly pushed back Monday, saying such reductions will face tough sledding in the legislature and could have negative consequences in the 2018 election.
PURPLE LINE’S FATE: Gov.-elect Larry Hogan (R) neither praised nor buried the Purple Line in his Friday speech to Montgomery County business and political leaders, which focused on the state’s fiscal troubles and a plea for bipartisan cooperation. But it seemed pretty clear in his comments to columnist Robert McCartney in Sunday’s Washington Post that Hogan is prepared to bury the 16-mile, $2.4 billion light rail line from Bethesda to New Carrollton, by either delaying it or killing it outright, Bill Turque reports in the Post.
MO CO’S FATE: Opinionmaker Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland writes there is the sense that Montgomery County is once again headed into a gun battle with a pea shooter. How the hell does Maryland’s largest and most diverse and most economically vital jurisdiction find itself with less political juice than ever?
NON-BELIEVERS HOLDING OFFICE: State Sen. Jamie Raskin is working with secular and atheist groups to remove language from the state constitution that bans non-believers from holding public office. Raskin explains the movement to repeal the ban from the state’s constitution and why it matters to his constituents on the public radio show The Takeaway with John Hockenberry.
GROWLERS IN WA CO: The Washington County Board of License Commissioners is asking the county’s delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to introduce local bills during the 2015 session that would allow liquor stores to sell beer through large refillable containers and also ensure that restaurants with a Class P alcoholic beverage license sell more food than alcohol, Kaustuv Basu reports for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.
FORMER DEL. CANE SUFFERS STROKE: Former state Del. Rudy Cane reportedly suffered a stroke while with his family in Arizona on Saturday, state and local officials confirmed. Phil Davis of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that several Wicomico County and state officials confirmed Monday that Cane had suffered a stroke during the weekend while in Phoenix, where his two children currently live and work as doctors.
O’MALLEY’S PRESIDENTIAL RUN: Gov. Martin O’Malley will probably push off an announcement about running for president until spring, a timetable that reflects the dominance of Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic field and the daunting challenges that O’Malley faces in raising money, according to several people helping him prepare for a possible bid. JOhn Wagner reports in the Post.
- Another top staffer to Martin O’Malley is leaving for a new job, raising questions about how many members of the Maryland governor’s inner circle will work in his potential 2016 presidential campaign, writes Annie Linskey for Bloomberg News. Colm O’Comartun, who has been the executive director for the Democratic Governors Association since O’Malley took the helm of the group in December 2010, is launching a new bipartisan consulting operation focused on state governments with Phil Cox, the chair of the Republican Governors Association, according to a report by Politico’s James Hohmann.
OVERSEAS EARNINGS: Capturing corporate taxes on earnings abroad would be the key to funding infrastructure repair and replacement, if a bill proposed by U.S. Rep. John Delaney would become law. The Cumberland Times News reports that the bill would change the way taxes are collected on earnings by U.S. corporations operating oversea to provide a stable source of funding for roads bridges and related infrastructure, according to information provided by Delaney’s staff.
LEGAL QUESTIONS ON YOUNG APPOINTMENT: Sylvia Carignan of the Frederick News-Post Staff reports that Maryland’s attorney general will weigh in on the legality of Blaine Young’s appointment to the county planning commission. Frederick County Attorney John Mathias confirmed in a Dec. 9 memo that Young served in two state offices for profit at the same time, which is prohibited by state law. Young was appointed to the planning commission Nov. 30, while he was still serving as a county commissioner.