State Roundup: Battle over tax hikes may loom as lawmakers disagree on solving budget gap; AFSCME union signs new contract with Md.; juvenile justice bills diverge

State Roundup: Battle over tax hikes may loom as lawmakers disagree on solving budget gap; AFSCME union signs new contract with Md.; juvenile justice bills diverge

Gov. Wes Moore and Budget Secretary Helene Grady, far left, stand with union leaders representing state employees for the signing of new contracts Thursday. Governor's Office Photo

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WORSENING MD. REVENUE PROJECTIONS BOOST TALK OF TAX HIKES: Maryland’s budget problems worsened Thursday with tax receipts failing to hit estimates for the fifth consecutive time since the pandemic ended. The news quickly ratcheted up the rhetoric among Democrats, who are divided on whether now is the time to raise taxes. Erin Cox/The Washington Post

  • As Maryland lawmakers head into the thick of budget decisions, they learned Thursday that they have even less money to work with than expected — and Democratic leaders are not united on how to solve the problem. Leaders of the House of Delegates and state Senate differ in their willingness to consider tax increases to not only keep the next year’s state government budget in balance, but also to resolve a long-term projected deficit. Pamela Wood/The Baltimore Banner
  • Disappointing news from a key revenue panel is accentuating a difference in approach by Maryland’s House and Senate on resolving looming budget gaps. The Board of Revenue Estimates on Thursday revised its fiscal 2024 and 2025 estimates down by $120 million and $134.9 million respectively from its December forecast. The news, which represents a mostly flat revenue estimate, comes as the Maryland Senate is about to begin budget debates. Bryan P. Sears/Maryland Matters
  • Several county leaders called on state lawmakers Wednesday to ignore special interests and campaign donors and pass a proposal that would raise $1.6 billion in new tax revenue. Bryan P. Sears/Maryland Matters

Editor’s Note: Maryland Reporter, Maryland Matters, Baltimore Brew, MoCo360 and Capital News Service do not have paywalls restricting access to their content, while most of the other sites whose stories are linked in this roundup do require subscriptions to read the full stories after readers have viewed a limited number of stories.

AFSCME UNION SIGNS NEW CONTRACT WITH STATE SECURING RAISES, WORKPLACE SAFETY: After two terms of rough negotiations with Maryland’s executive branch, unionized state employees flocked to the State House for the first time in nearly a decade Thursday to watch Gov. Wes Moore and Department of Budget and Management Secretary Helene Grady sign their new contract. Hannah Gaskill/The Baltimore Sun

LAWMAKERS’ MOTIVATIONS, POLICIES DIVERGE IN CRAFTING JUVENILE JUSTICE BILLS: As the busiest part of the session draws near, both chambers of Maryland’s General Assembly have scrambled to push out massive juvenile justice bills to quell calls from constituents to address the rise in certain crimes.  Though they initially were identical, the bills drafted by Maryland’s House and Senate have morphed into policies with glaring differences. Hannah Gaskill/The Baltimore Sun

LAWMAKERS MAY DASH DREAMS OF HIGH-SPEED RAIL: Maryland lawmakers this session are debating their possible role in funding a high-speed rail project from Washington, D.C. to New York City, with some convinced the answer is clear: The state shouldn’t have any role at all.  Lydia Hurley of Capital News Service/Maryland Reporter

OPIOID DEATHS SPUR PUSH TO ALLOW STUDENTS TO CARRY NAXOLONE:  A disparate and ambiguous set of district-level policies has created confusion on the role students may play in preventing opioid deaths among their peers. A bill before the Maryland General Assembly would explicitly authorize students across the state to possess and administer naloxone – also known by its brand name, Narcan – as adolescent opioid deaths surge and teens lobby for urgent solutions. Sapna Bansil of Capital News Service/Maryland Reporter

MO CO SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES DISCUSS LGBTQ+ BOOKS, ARMING SCHOOL OFFICERS: Montgomery County school board candidates discussed issues ranging from whether police officers should be stationed in schools to whether parents should be allowed to opt out their children from lessons involving LGBTQ+ inclusive books, during a forum sponsored by a local group that opposes the teaching of critical race theory. Elia Griffin/MoCo 360

MO CO EXEC SAYS HE STANDS BY HIS FAILED PICK FOR FIRE CHIEF: Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) said Thursday that he stands by his nomination of Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service  Division Chief Charles Bailey – even though Elrich dropped the nomination Tuesday. He nominated Bailey last November but the county council never voted on the nomination within the required 60 days. If appointed, Bailey would have been the county’s first Black fire chief. Ginny Bixby/MoCo 360

MO CO COUNCIL TO CONSIDER TWO NEW TENANT RIGHTS BILLS: Two new pieces of legislation introduced by Montgomery County Council members this week have similar goals: protecting tenant rights and increasing transparency between landlords and renters. Ginny Bixby/MoCo 360

HOWARD CO. SCHOOL BOARD PASSES NEARLY $1.5 BILLION BUDGET: The Howard County Board of Education adopted a nearly $1.5 billion fiscal year 2025 budget Thursday evening that reduces the number of looming staff cuts and restores popular school programs. The approval comes after weeks of public hearings and work sessions, including one budget deliberation this week that a board member said was “like a bad dream.” Jess Nocera/The Baltimore Banner

EARLY CLEARING OF HOMELESS CAMPS ANGERS ADVOCATES: On Monday – two days before the deadline posted on signs warning that the camps of homeless people at Wyman Park in Baltimore would be cleared – city crews plowed down the tents and hauled away clothing, tents and other possessions in trucks. The early razing of the camps was denounced as cruel to the homeless and a slap in the face to their advocates. Fern Shen/Baltimore Brew

OPINION: ARMING SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS WOULD MAKE SCHOOLS SAFER: As the Maryland General Assembly deliberates on the crucial matter of arming school resource officers (SROs) in all schools, particularly within Baltimore City, I want to emphasize my staunch support for Maryland Senate Bill 819, sponsored by Sen. J.B. Jennings. This legislation mandates that SROs – including Baltimore City school police officers – carry firearms while on school premises. Chris Anderson/Maryland Reporter

OPINION: INSIGHTS LAWMAKERS AND LEADERS MUST CONSIDER IN HOUSING OLDER ADULTS: There is not enough affordable housing for low-income older adults in our state. Given that those 60 and older represent the fastest-growing segment of Maryland’s population, more needs to be done to ensure no older adult is left behind. Alison Ciborowski/Maryland Matters

OPINION: STOP PREDATORY TICKET SELLING: Music fans deserve the chance to buy real tickets at the prices artists set, and gratefully, Maryland legislators now have a chance to stand up FOR consumers and stand up to professional scalpers and the platforms that knowingly host them. Audrey Fix Schaefer/Maryland Reporter

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