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.
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.