Welcome To The All American City And The Friendliest Town On The Eastern Shore
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
-Press Release - Delegate Mike McDermott
Apr. 6th, 2011
Not Even One…
By Delegate Mike McDermott
Today, the House deliberated HB-71, the Capital Bond Budget, which came in with a near billion dollar price tag. This bill contains all of the projects that the state is appropriating money towards during the coming fiscal year. Many are ongoing such as major roads or building construction measured in the tens of millions, while just as many are small projects coming in under $100,000.00. To be sure, most are very worthy of support. Our problem is, we are out of money.
Much of this Capital Budget is being funded on transfers from, so called, “trust” funds and is banking on a very optimistic economic forecast which remains to be seen. The Department of Legislative Services (those charged with providing statistics and crafting legislation for the General Assembly) made it clear that they wanted to see reductions of $100 million from the current proposal of $925 million. This could have been achieved in a variety of ways, but the committee elected to keep the spending higher and send it to the floor.
The Republican Caucus offered several amendments to cut spending on this bill. I offered the first amendment which would have cut overall spending in each budgeted category by 5%. Conversely, it would have maintained all projects at 95% of the funding level which is more than fair. It would have reduced the overall Capital Budget by $45 million. This was rejected on a party line vote.
We then offered an amendment to reduce spending by 3% overall. This would have saved $27 million. Hardly a big deal, but this too was rejected largely along party lines.
Holding our breath and asking for some consideration, we offered our last amendment which would have only reduced spending by 1%. Unbelievably, this too was rejected out of hand as being simply too drastic a measure. The bottom line, a project to build a “dark room” at a Baltimore High School which was funded at $40,000.00 in this budget would have only been reduced by $400.00, and we could not even get them to agree to make this minor cut.
At a time when our General Assembly should be performing triage in determining funding needs, we continue to treat scratches with the same necessity as we do amputations. Reluctant to believe the truth, the crafters and leadership of the ruling party say they are “optimistic” and actually stated that our real estate prices have stabilized in the state. They made this statement despite all evidence to the contrary. The Eastern Shore is wrestling with falling home prices and assessments which are swiftly diminishing the local government coffers, further straining services. In fact, this is happening all over the state, but those calling the shots are not taking heed.
I think it is also note worthy that the Tea Party Caucus (made up of 23 House Republican members) offered an amendment as well which would have simply stripped the $15 million in local bond bills from the Capital Budget. That would amount to about a 1.5% reduction in spending. This particular area of spending was the subject of a resolution made by the Tea Party Caucus and the House Republican Caucus to not accept, or apply for, any of these bond projects. This amendment, and the subsequent vote, represents those making good on this commitment. How can we go home, look our citizens in the eye, and tell them we listened to them last year when they told us to get our fiscal house in order if we did not vote in favor of these reductions?
In any school or college I ever attended, a 99%, 97%, or 95% were all solid “A’s” of which I could be proud. Yet, even offering the ruling party this level of funding for all of these projects was deemed punitive and unfair. What will they say to our citizens when the State Property Tax must be raised to cover their credit card spending? What happens when our revenue estimates fall below projected rates? What will they say?
When it comes to our budget, the sky is not falling; rather, the ground is opening up.