State Roundup, May 23, 2017

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TRUMP BUDGET: John Fritze of the Sun reports that a $4 trillion federal budget proposal expected to be unveiled by the Trump administration today will call for deep cuts to safety net programs like Medicaid and food stamps while increasing spending for infrastructure and a paid parental leave program. The budget blueprint, which is certain to face resistance on Capitol Hill, is expected to recommend eliminating federal funding for the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, slashing money for housing grants used heavily in Baltimore and requiring federal workers to contribute more to their retirement savings.

  • The editorial board for the Sun opines that the budget outline President Donald Trump issued in March was horrifying, with massive cuts to everything from the Environmental Protection Agency to the National Institutes of Health. The detailed proposal he is expected to release tomorrow is even worse. Far from the populist rhetoric on which Mr. Trump campaigned, it represents a complete reversion to self-serving conservative ideas about “makers and takers” that provide huge benefits to the wealthy and leave the working poor behind.

HARBOR HEALTH: It was safe to jump into waters off of Fort McHenry almost 90% of the time in 2016, but the Baltimore harbor is still far from meeting a goal of becoming “swimmable and fishable” by 2020, according to a report being released Monday. The Healthy Harbor Initiative report again gives the Patapsco River, Jones Falls and Gwynns Falls failing grades, Scott Dance of the Sun reports.

BLOW TO PURPLE LINE: A federal district court judge delivered another blow to the Purple Line in a ruling that called for the Federal Transit Administration to begin a new environmental review of the 16.2-mile light-rail project, reports Andrew Metcalf for Bethesda Beat.

MTA SHORTENS CITY BUS ROUTES: Four Mondays from now, Darlene Brown and Indira McDonald don’t know how they’ll get to work. Colin Campbell of the Sun reports that the No. 60 bus route, which runs up and down Falls Road between Baltimore and their jobs at the Johns Hopkins Health Care & Surgery Center at Green Spring Station in Lutherville, will be cut short by five miles under the Maryland Transit Administration’s BaltimoreLink route overhaul. “You just redesigned a bus system that’s putting people out of work,” said Brown, a patient service coordinator.

2nd RX POT GROWER READY: Brad Kroner of the Cecil Whig reports that about a week ago, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission awarded the state’s first license to grow medical marijuana. SunMed Growers, a Cecil County-based medical cannabis marijuana company that received pre-approval last August, isn’t far behind. The head of SunMed said his facility is in the final stages of construction, and he expects to be finished in July, with growing set to begin in August.

IN LAS VEGAS: Tonight’s the night for the legendary Maryland Party, the annual fete where local and state politicians mix freely with steamed crabs, Casamigos tequilas and a who’s who of developers and donors three time zones away from home. Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew writes about the Baltimore City and county politicians and developers who are attending the International Council of Shopping Centers RECon event in Las Vegas.

I-270 IMPROVEMENTS WELCOMED: Gov. Larry Hogan’s  $100-million plan for “innovative congestion management” improvements to I-270 is a welcome first step in upgrading the performance of one of Maryland’s most important highways, Peter Samuel of the Maryland Policy Institute writes. An open request for proposals last June has produced a set of measures that more successfully adapt the existing roadway to current traffic patterns.

FRANCHOT TO RUN AGAIN: Peter Franchot likes his job as state comptroller, and he hopes to keep it, reports the Frederick News Post. “I think normally the tax collector would not be liked, but I’m lucky,” Franchot said during a Frederick Uncut podcast taping last week. “I’ve been in the office for 10 years, and I hope next year I’ll be one of the top vote-getters.”

GANSLER POLLS BETTER: Former Attorney General Doug Gansler (D) fares better in a head-to-head matchup with Gov. Larry Hogan (R) than four other Democrats who are also contemplating running for governor next year, according to a poll conducted for Gansler two months ago. Josh Kurtz writes that the poll, obtained Monday by Maryland Matters, also showed Gansler with the highest name recognition and the highest net favorable ratings of the five Democrats tested – among all voters and registered Democrats.

VETO SICK LEAVE BILL: When Larry Hogan was on the campaign trail, he often cited the fact that as a small business owner, he understood better than any other candidate how difficult it was to remain operational in a state that never seemed to fail in punishing employers with ill-advised policies, writes Mike O’Halloran of the National Federation of Independent Business in an opinion piece for MarylandReporter.  We are now just days away from a deadline to act on a mandatory paid leave bill that will cripple the small business community and send a terrible message to Maryland’s would-be entrepreneurs.

DUNCAN ON MO CO EXEC RACE: So what’s the mood of the electorate in Montgomery County, less than a year after term limits won big at the ballot box? For only the third time in the last quarter century, the race for county executive will not have an incumbent. And as potential candidates begin to jockey for position, there’s every indication that a historically wild and woolly race is in the offing, writes Bruce DePuyt, who interviews former exec Doug Duncan on the issues for Maryland Matters, in this second of a two-part series.

COMPLAINT FILED AGAINST JUDGE: The founder of an Anne Arundel County progressive group and the Caucus of African American Leaders have filed a formal complaint against Circuit Court Judge Mark W. Crooks after his name was appeared on a county council candidate’s fundraising flier, Amanda Yeager of the Annapolis Capital reports.

ROCKVILLE BANS OUTDOOR RESTAURANT SMOKING: The Rockville City Council voted 4-to-1 Monday night to prohibit smoking or vaping in open-air sections of restaurants and bars, becoming only the second Maryland locality to mandate smoke-free outdoor drinking and dining, Bill Turque of the Post reports.

SOLAR SWITCH: A solar utility company that recently sought to defeat a bill before the Frederick County Council paid for ads and a letter campaign, but used another group’s name and logo, reports Danielle Gaines in the Frederick News Post. Coronal Energy — a company seeking to operate two solar utility arrays in Frederick County — paid more than $4,000 for two ads that ran in the Frederick News-Post, according to published ad rates.

  • Mary P.

    For those who bemoan the proposed federal budget cuts, what alternate cuts would you propose be made? We can’t keep raising the deficit every year. Unfortunately entitlements are the 600-lb. gorilla of the federal budget so leaving entitlement programs alone and cutting from other parts of the budget won’t produce enough saving to balance the budget. Let’s get real, people.

    • ksteve

      Yeah, let’s get real. Have you seen how much money the Republicans would waste on defense spending? How many goodies provided by the war industry do we really need and how many wars do we really need to get into? We might be able to balance the budget if we stopped providing paying so much to the war industry and increased (rather than reduced) taxes on those who can easily afford to pay more. There are real people who need help from our government and they aren’t the super-rich.

      • Mary P.

        It’s obvious you don’t know the budget numbers. 65% of the federal budget is entitlements, 6% interest on debt and only 16% on military spending. In FY 2016 alone, there was a $587 billion deficit. The ENTIRE Military budget for FY2016 was only $528 million. I think you are naive in suggesting that federal taxes be increased on the super-rich plus defense spending cuts will balance the budget–there aren’t enough of those rich folks (only 47% of all federal revenues come from income tax).

        Spend sometime educating yourself on the budget numbers. There are some tough, tough decisions that have to be made to address the budget issue and none of the options will be pretty.