Maryland's system of contracting for services through competitive bids is in shambles. It has been that way for years -- and is getting worse. It's an embarrassment to taxpayers. Yet a long list of procurement debacles hasn't been enough to spur sweeping reforms.
Twice a month for eight years, Gov. Martin O'Malley has presided over the Board of Public Works. Its three members all describe it as a unique institution in American state government where three independently elected state officials get to review every major government contract and purchase, from health insurance and prison food service to university dorms and wetland permits. Wednesday was O'Malley's last session as governor, and at Comptroller Peter Franchot's suggestion, the audience gave O'Malley a standing ovation.
The Board of Public Works approved a $200 million contract for gaming machines at the state’s two smallest casinos and also worried about safety on Baltimore’s metro system during its Wednesday morning meeting.
In unusual joint testimony, Maryland State Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot, chair and vice-chair of the state pension board, pleaded with Senate budgeters not to permanently cut $100 million in state payments to the retirement system. They said the cut proposed by Gov. Martin O'Malley had high long-term repercussions and undermined the state's credibility with bond rating agencies by reneging on promises made in 2011 pension reforms.
It takes quite a bit for the quiet, diplomatic State Treasurer, Nancy Kopp, to criticize her fellow Democrat, Gov. Martin O'Malley. But she gently laid it on the line in opposing O'Malley's $100 million budget cut for state pension contributions.
The O'Malley administration on Wednesday successfully pushed to raise next year's bond authorization to $1.16 billion, $75 million more than this year, rejecting objections by state Comptroller Peter Franchot that "we're adding another Christmas tree ornament."
"We can't afford it," Franchot told the Capital Debt Affordability Committee, saying it should stick to this year's bond authorization of $1,085,000,000.
The Maryland state pension system achieved a 10.6% return on its investment portfolio for the fiscal year that ended June 30, bringing the fund assets to a total of $40.2 billion, Chief Investment Officer Melissa Moye told the pension trustees Tuesday.
The return exceeded the system's target of 7.75% annual return, and was far better than the dismal results of less than 1% for fiscal 2012.
REVISED AND CORRECTED: The Maryland Board of Public Works on Wednesday approved 44 new contracts for child residential care services in locations throughout Maryland totaling over $364 million over five years.
But one Montgomery County provider did not win an award for a group home that the state and Montgomery County have previously invested in, virtually ensuring the foreclosure of the Sandy Spring group home, its founder said .Hattie Washington of Aunt Hattie’s Place Inc. vociferously protested the lack of funding.
The outside advisor for the Maryland pension system told its Board of Trustees Tuesday that he was "very disappointed" that the legislature reduced the state's payment into the retirement fund by $100 million in budget action this month. The money comes from $300 million in added contributions of state employees and teachers passed in 2011. It is being set aside for the possible federal budget cuts from sequestration.
As fiscal brinkmanship continues in Congress, state treasurer Nancy Kopp warned a Maryland Senate committee that a federal sequester and the resulting cuts to the state budget could result in a downgrade of Maryland’s triple-A credit rating from Moody’s Analytics, one of America’s three major credit rating agencies.