State Roundup: State revenue shrinking by $477 million; team drops out of beltway toll project; gun carrying law advances

State Roundup: State revenue shrinking by $477 million; team drops out of beltway toll project; gun carrying law advances

It's a new cast at the Board of Revenue Estimates. From left, State Treasurer Dereck Davis, Comptroller Brooke Lierman, Budget Secretary Helene Grady and Revenue Estimates director Robert Rehrmann. Photo is screen shot from Comptroller's Facebook page.

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STATE REVENUE ESTIMATED TO SHRINK BY $477 MILLION: Maryland’s economy and labor markets grew more slowly than state forecasters predicted, leaving new Gov. Wes Moore (D) looking for budget cuts just weeks after taking office with a $2.5 billion surplus on the books. State forecasters said Thursday that tax receipts plummeted at the end of last year — far more than expected — as consumer spending and the job market slowed, too. The Board of Revenue Estimates reduced its official predictions by $477 million over the next two years, a 1 percent trim overall that will force Moore to look for ways to snip his $63.1 billion budget by $400 million. Erin Cox/The Washington Post

  • State Treasurer Dereck Davis said the news wasn’t good but also not entirely surprising. Budget officials have been anticipating this downturn and it will be up to the governor and General Assembly to be “socially responsible and fiscally prudent” as they budget, he said. Sam Janesch/The Baltimore Sun
  • Even before Thursday, budget analysts had warned that the state faced a future structural issue resulting from mandated future increases in education spending for a 10-year multi-billion-dollar education reform plan passed in 2021. The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Fund was projected to have a near-zero balance in 2026 and run into deficit in 2027. Those gaps are expected to widen now. Danielle E. Gaines/Maryland Matters

TOLL OPERATOR DROPS OUT OF PROJECT TO DEVELOP CAPITAL  BELTWAY, I-270 TOLL LANES: Maryland’s vision to use one of the nation’s biggest public-private partnerships to relieve D.C.-area traffic congestion faces serious jeopardy, as the private team picked to develop it quit the project on Thursday. The team, led by Australian toll company Transurban, backed out amid uncertainty that new Gov. Wes Moore (D) supported the proposal and the unresolved lawsuits over the project’s environmental implications. The decision suspends progress on replacing the American Legion Bridge and relieving the congested Capital Beltway and Interstate 270 with high-occupancy toll lanes. Erin Cox and Luz Lazo/The Washington Post

BILL LIMITING GUNS IN PUBLIC PLACES GETS PRELIMINARY APPROVAL: Maryland’s Senate gave preliminary approval Thursday to a bill that would prohibit a person from knowingly carrying a firearm onto someone else’s property without the property owner’s express permission and also would prohibit carrying a firearm within 100 feet of public places. Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher, D-Montgomery, is lead sponsor of Senate Bill 1. His amended version of the Gun Safety Act of 2023 specifies that guns would be prohibited in areas where children and vulnerable individuals congregate, at government and public infrastructure sites and certain special purpose areas such as a stadium or theater. William J. Ford/Maryland Matters

SENATE APPROVES BILL ON SAFE STORAGE OF GUNS: The Maryland Senate has given preliminary approval to a bill that would alter the state’s safe storage gun laws. Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair Will Smith, a Montgomery County Democrat, sponsored Senate Bill 858 to restructure Maryland’s policy on keeping guns away from minors and from people who aren’t allowed to have firearms. Hannah Gaskill/The Baltimore Sun

BILL CALLS FOR OFFERING WATER SAFETY/SWIMMING CLASS FOR STUDENTS: Of the many bills in this year’s legislative session set to make changes to education in Maryland, one stands out: a bill that would develop a water safety and swimming curriculum for high school-aged students. Del. Karen Toles, D-Prince George’s, is the main sponsor of HB1105, which would require the State Board of Education to establish an elective course for public school students in grades 8-12 that would teach them the basics of swimming and water safety. Kara Thompson of Capital News Service/Maryland Reporter

BROWN JOINS LAWSUIT VS. FDA FOR RESTRICTING ACCESS TO ABORTION DRUG: Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown joined a lawsuit Thursday to challenge current restrictions on a drug widely used in medication abortions as the U.S. awaits a federal court decision that could pull it from the market. Brown filed to join a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its restrictions prescribing the medical abortion drug mifepristone. It’s part of a two-drug regimen used in 98% of medical abortions in the country. Hannah Gaskill/The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE CITY COUNCIL REJECT’S MAYOR’S NOMINEE FOR CITY ADMINISTRATOR: Faith Leach, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott’s pick for city administrator, was voted down by a Baltimore City Council committee considering her nomination Thursday in a meeting that exploded into shouts over council procedure. Scott nominated Leach in January and she has been serving in the role in an acting capacity.  After more than two hours of testimony and questioning by council that was largely favorable toward Leach, the council’s Rules and Legislative Oversight Committee voted against her appointment by a 4-2 vote, citing concerns about the city administrator’s office structure. Emily Opilo/The Baltimore Sun

  • Most committee members described Leach as professional, responsive and effective but some questioned the performance of her predecessor, the structure of the office and how the city administrator and chief of staff work together. The council members who voted against Leach bemoaned that the office of the city administrator had plenty of bloated salaries but had not produced enough tangible change to justify its existence. Emily Sullivan/The Baltimore Banner

COMPUTER GLITCH HALTS PROCESSING OF STATE TAX RETURNS: A computer outage at the Office of the State Comptroller has stopped the agency from processing tax returns and refunds. The outage was announced on the comptroller’s website. A spokesperson for the agency said the outage was the result of aging computer software — not a cyber-attack or other malicious incursion. Bryan P. Sears/Maryland Matters

MOST MD. SCHOOLS NOT IMPROVING, STATE RATING SYSTEM FINDS: Most Maryland public schools showed no improvement on a state rating system updated on Thursday for the first time since 2019. Baltimore City and Baltimore County had the lowest ratings in the region. A quarter of Baltimore County schools and three quarters of Baltimore City schools received one or two stars, which is considered below average. Kristen Griffith/The Baltimore Banner

LAWMAKERS PUSH FOR BETTER HIGH-SPEED INTERNET ACCESS: A group of Maryland lawmakers, including Democratic Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, has urged the Federal Communications Commission to improve broadband mapping data accuracy for the state. The recommendation by Maryland lawmakers to update the FCC’s national broadband map data is based on comments made by the Maryland Office of Statewide Broadband, which found approximately 3,800 addresses incorrectly identified as serviceable by internet service providers compared to the state’s information on unserved locations, according to a letter the lawmakers sent to the FCC this week. Ian Decker of Capital News Service/Maryland Reporter

TWO BILLS PROPOSE KEEPING RAPE KITS FOR 75 YEARS AND TRACKING TESTING: Legislation introduced in both General Assembly chambers would extend the time law enforcement agencies and hospitals must preserve sexual assault evidence kits from 20 years to 75 years and broadens the definition of a kit to encompass additional evidence. A second bill would use a bar code on kits to enable sexual assault victims and their representatives to track the progress of a kit being tested as it moves from a hospital to a police station to a forensics lab. Cassidy Jensen/The Baltimore Sun

About The Author

Regina Holmes

Contributing editor Regina Holmes has worked as a journalist for over 30 years. She was an assistant business editor at the Miami Herald and an assistant city editor at Newsday in New York City, where she helped supervise coverage of 9/11, anthrax attacks and the August 2003 Northeast Blackout. As an assistant managing editor of the Baltimore Examiner, she helped launch the free tabloid in 2006. Before joining Maryland Reporter, she was the managing editor for Washington, D.C.-based Talk Media News, where she supervised digital, radio and video production of news reports for over 400 radio stations. The Baltimore native is a graduate of Vassar College and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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