Ask any municipal official and they’ll tell you that public participation in the budgeting process is horrifically low. Engagement is often limited to the privileged, or else? people? with? extreme points of view?. No wonder it’s sometimes called the “dark side” of civic engagement. ?The good news is that municipal laboratories across the country are trying out new strategies to reshape public budgeting to better include input from communities, especially the disenfranchised and disenchanted.
One of three national bond rating agencies, S&P Global Ratings, cited important differences with State Treasurer Nancy Kopp about how Purple Line debt is recognized in its May 26 opinion supporting Maryland’s $1 billion bond sale next Wednesday. S&P is going to count payments as debt; Kopp says it doesn’t have to be.
They never seem to give Bobby Neall easy assignments. Now Gov. Larry Hogan, Jr. wants the former Anne Arundel County Executive, former state senator and former state delegate to take on another near-mission impossible: reorganize state government.
Maryland Stadium Authority officials begin talks soon with a Frederick team over a complicated deal for a public-private partnership to finance a $70 million downtown conference center hotel on Frederick’s Carroll Creek Park. The authority is reluctant to lend money to a private hotel operator but the city of Frederick doesn’t want to accept responsibility for losses that would put its taxpayers “on the hook.”
Republican senators tried to put the brakes on a series of Democrat-sponsored mandated spending bills, dubbed the “Wow” bills by Senate President Mike Miller, designed to improve educational and quality of life prospects for Baltimore City residents on Tuesday. The four bills passed for a final vote despite several failed Republican amendments that would have given Gov. Larry Hogan greater control over how those projects would be funded as opposed to establishing annual spending mandates.
In Harrisburg on Wednesday, a reluctant Democratic governor and the Republican legislature have finally come to an agreement on a budget — not for next year, but for the final three months of this fiscal year. A year of rancor and dispute came close to bankrupting schools and social agencies as the legislature refused to pass Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed tax hikes for a major increase in school aid. At the Maryland State House on Wednesday, the Democratic House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to approve its final vote on Gov. Larry Hogan’s $42 billion budget, with bipartisan praise of a bipartisan process.
Gov. Larry Hogan wants the General Assembly to reduce how mandated spending puts pressure on the state’s budget. His goal is a good one–only 17% of the state’s own-source spending in fiscal 2016 is flexible absent legislation. But if he wants to realize this goal, he needs to adopt an approach that matches his periodic rhetoric of bipartisanship.
The Maryland Senate Thursday unanimously passed Gov. Hogan’s $42 billion budget. That earned praise from the Republican governor mixed with concern about reductions in the Rainy Day fund and highway user revenues, as well as $132 million in funds fenced off for legislative priorities. “Working in a bipartisan fashion to give our great state a sound fiscal foundation is a shared responsibility,” Hogan said in a statement, “and today’s vote shows both leadership and partnership toward a common goal.”
There has been much talk of bipartisanship at the State House this legislative session, but not a lot of evidence of it, until Thursday morning in the Senate. “I want to thank the governor,” said Senate President Pro-tem Nathaniel McFadden, the chair of the all-Democrat Baltimore City delegation. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday morning provided an additional $12.7 million in his third supplemental budget for Baltimore City schools, money the school district had lost due to declining enrollment.
The Maryland Board of Revenue Estimates on Wednesday decided to write down state revenue estimates for fiscal 2016 and 2017 by approximately $51 million from estimates made last December. State Comptroller Peter Franchot said the new estimates reflected weak sales throughout Maryland during the recent holiday season. Economic growth has continued to be stagnant in the last few months.