September 16, 2015

Hogan cuts fees across agencies, saving $10 million annually

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Gov. Larry Hogan announces fees cuts flanked by cabinet secretaries.

Gov. Larry Hogan announces fees cuts flanked by cabinet secretaries.

By Naomi Eide 

Capital News Service 

Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday announced reductions and eliminations to state agency fees, saving Maryland taxpayers approximately $51 million over the next five years.

Each state agency was asked to conduct a top to bottom review to determine which fees they could reduce or eliminate through administrative means by the end of 2015, Hogan said.

Agencies found 100 fees — and an additional 115 animal health diagnostic fees — to either eliminate or cut, saving taxpayers $10.2 million per year over the next five years, including $5.9 million from the elimination earlier this year of an E-ZPass maintenance fee, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

Changing some fees falls under state regulation and does not require new legislation. Hogan said he will ask the legislature to cut more fees that he can’t do administratively.

“These fee reductions will not impact the operations of any agency or department. In many agencies we saw that departments were simply collecting more than was needed, or in other words, overcharging taxpayers,” Hogan said.

Some proposed fee changes included the transportation department reducing the cost of homeless identification cards to $1. Under current fee structures, homeless adults and minors have to pay $24 and $15, respectively, for a homeless identification card.

That makes no sense, said Hogan.

Corporate interests

Senator Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery, vice chair of the senate’s budget and taxation committee, said that the amount of revenue Hogan is cutting is negligible and overwhelmingly cuts business licensing fees.

“When it comes to these proposals, (they’re) almost entirely to benefit the corporate interests that are the base of his support,” Madaleno said.

The Maryland Department of Human Resources has also proposed eliminating a $725 adoption application fee.

Madaleno, an adoptive parent himself, said eliminating the application fee, “depends on what that money was going to pay for,” and which services might be hampered without it. In this case, it’s a fee for adult adoptees who want to find their birth parents through state records, according to Madaleno.

The process of making agency fee cuts and eliminations began Tuesday, though the schedule for individual fee changes is not yet known, according to Erin Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the governor.

Sen. Stephen Hershey, R-Upper Shore, said next he wants to work on reducing taxes  and review the licensing and employment fees for certain trades, such as in salons with stylists and manicurists.

Commission on Retirement Security

Earlier Tuesday, Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr., D-Calvert, Charles and Prince George’s, along with House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, announced the members of the Commission on Retirement and Security.

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez was part of the commission announcement and emphasized that there is a retirement crisis looming. According to Perez, Americans are more afraid of running out of retirement savings than they are of their own death.

The commission will focus on helping working Marylanders have a secure retirement. According to Busch, more than 1 million Marylanders will turn 60 years old with no real retirement savings, save for Social Security.

  • Michael

    OK, so if I owned a car dealership or outdoor sign company or owned a food manufaturing company or warehouse or were a real estate broker or mortgage company or were an asbestos contractor or worked on installing underground storage tanks I just might save some money from all these cuts that Hogan just announces, but, just like the tolls on the bridge, I. and so many more Marylanders, don’t really get a dime from all this hoopla. But, I am sure that we will have to listen to how great it is over and over again!

    • Fair enough. It’s also fair to state the governor doesn’t have the authority to slash each and every fee charged by the state, and that’s for good reason. Governor Hogan mentioned in his speech that additional fee reduction will have to be approved first in the legislature. That’s not passing the buck: it’s democratic government.

      • Dale McNamee

        By the same token, does a governor have the authority to increase fees ?

        There were 40 tax and fee increases during “Marty’s” reign…

        • I don’t know specifically know over which individual fees the governor of Maryland has jurisdiction, but it would stand to reason that Governors O’Malley and Hogan would have the authority to raise or slash any or all of them.

      • Michael

        Joshua, it is one thing for a governor to mention something in a speech but another thing to actually produce action………and in my household it has always been the case that Actions Speak Louder Then Words…….so far it seems that so far this governor has taking actions that have only benefitted the few for the most part.

        • I agree entirely with the idea that actions speak louder than words. This is an especially important maxim for politicians. We don’t want excuses: we want action, and we want reform. Perhaps these fee reductions are small, but I agree with “Not Stupid” that it does set the right tone: that the fees have gotten out of control, and we as Marylanders need to rethink how we govern ourselves.

          Time will tell if Governor Hogan’s rhetoric is empty, but I’m encouraged.

    • Not Stupid

      So I’m guessing you don’t own a car or an EZ Pass? He also eliminated the $1.50 monthly EZ Pass “maintenance fee” and reduce your Emissions Test fee by $4 if you use the self service kiosk.

      Sure, it’s not tens of thousands of dollars, but that’s not the point. It’s a move toward the end of nickel and diming Marylanders for every imaginable transgression. Want to adopt a kid? Fork over $750. Who dreams those fees up? More importantly, it’s sending the right message.

      • Michael

        while I own more then one car I am not a dealer so the majority of the cuts do not apply to me. As for the EZ Pass, I do not have a need to cross the bridge. The eastern shore airports provides the services I need for travel but I do take heart taht if I should ever need to make a correction to my vehicle title (something I have never had to do in 50 plus years of owning a vehicle) I would be able to do so for only 40 bucks instead of 50 bucks. As for adopting, no, I don’t think so but there is hope yet……….should I ever become HOMELESS I can take heart in the vast savings I will get when applying for my Identification Card for Homeless!

        As I said, if ya look at the 4 page listing of the cuts and eliminations being proposed their isn’t one dime there for me or, more then likely, for the average Marylander either.

    • Dale McNamee

      Instead of ” getting a dime ” … How about ” saving a dime ” ?

      What about lowering the coats of goods and services by getting g rid of the nuisance fees ?

      I’ll never tire of hearing about ” how great it is ” !

      • Michael

        “getting” or “saving” means the same to me….either way I have the dime in my pocket and as for the assumption that these cuts would result in savings to the average Marylander. well, would you like to buy a bridge?

        • Dale McNamee

          The cuts and elimination of the taxes and fees will save Marylanders money over time…

          Can you explain how the current fees save Marylanders money ?

          As for the bridge… I already own it via taxes… Both State and Federal…

          • Michael

            ….the bridge is still for sale…..you have plenty of time to decide………….

          • Dale McNamee

            You still haven’t answered my question as to how the current fees save Marylanders money, while cutting or eliminating fees doesn’t…

            Instead you want to play games…

            Be an adult and answer my question honestly…

          • Michael

            Truthfully, given that no one, including myself, had indicated any belief that any of the current fees saved us any money I thought that perhaps you had mistakenly asked such an out of place question. But, if by chance you expect that any off the wall question that is asked must be answered then I would suggest to you that it really isn’t me that is playing a game………but, perhaps you already knew that. Was that adult enough for you? (you really don’t need to answer that question).

  • Michael

    While the headline talks about the amount that is being cut and the “savings” it creates, there is no data that shows how much revenue was actually generated by these fees. It would be interesting to look at the fees that Hogan proposes to eliminate completely and see what actual revenue the state got from each. It seems to me that it is fairly easy to eliminate a fee that no one is using anymore and call it a savings. Perhaps this story should have had a bit more research done so that we could actually talk about real savings to the average Marylander. It could actually turn out that some Marylanders are saving a great deal more then the amount quoted or perhaps there is very little “savings” at all.

    • lenlazarick

      The “savings” estimated were based on what the fees were actually bringing in.

      • Michael

        Thanky you, I stand, or perhaps sit, corrected although the 4 page
        listing provided does not seem to provide level of detail. Again, thank you for the correction.

  • aureliusjb

    I perused all of these comments, but I must say, it’s refreshing to at least see some TALK (if nothing else) from senior government officials about cutting fees/taxes/red tape. It’s a step in the right direction, and long overdue. That said, I have noticed for a long time that the basic fiscal irresponsibility of states geographically (or politically) close to D.C. usually does not faze their leaders one iota because they believe they can always get a bailout (contracts, favors, money, programs, etc) from Uncle Sam when their largess comes home to roost. Well, sooner or later, that will run out. Self-sustainment is not a concept well practiced in these states, Maryland being a prime example, and so this little gesture is at least a start. I applaud the governor.