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News From The Statehouse

Delegate Tony McConkey
Delegate Tony McConkey's picture
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April 3, 2018

The spring lull in Maryland politics is cancelled this year. Elections are coming.

The General Assembly ends on April 9. The usual break in politics will be delayed as everyone rushes back to their districts to begin battling to earn another four years in office, starting with the June 26 primary.

During the 90-day session, all eyes have been on the 2018 elections with a record number of legislative bills introduced to prove their sponsors’ good works. Such an environment isn’t always best for state policy, but it has served to moderate legislation this year with much of the worse legislation being shelved until after the elections.

Bad bills like “Maryland Sanctuary For Illegal Aliens,” bills that came close to passage in previous sessions, have been put on hold in fear of a backlash from voters. Many others like “State-Assisted Suicide” were simply not introduced.

Instead, time has been dominated by the perennial favorite topic of voters, education, as legislators attempt to outdo one another on who is more virtuous on the issue. The governor set a high bar by including record education funding of $6.2 billion. Not to be outdone, the legislature set up the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education to recommend billions in new education spending with a $200 million down payment included this year. With the tragic school shootings in Florida and St. Mary’s County, a bidding war erupted with $41 million in additional funding for school safety, but that amount is likely to increase.

Overall, the General Assembly did a good job on spending, approving 95 percent of the governor’s budget, which held overall spending increases to 2.2 percent with no new taxes; however, the legislature performed poorly in reducing taxes.

The legislature, which has failed repeatedly over the last four-year term to cut taxes, failed miserably again this year. Following eight years under the O’Malley administration, which raised more than 40 taxes and fees, Governor Hogan was elected on a platform to reverse course, to hold the line on spending and to reduce taxes.

Our budget system, which gives the governor the upper hand in the budget process, has done a good job on limiting the growth in the budget, which has averaged less than 2 percent per year over four years, but the governor has been stymied by the legislature in his efforts to cut taxes. For that reason, I was enthusiastic when in January, the governor and the legislative leadership all announced their commitment to tax cuts.

What was different this year? The large federal tax cut in December 2017. The federal tax cut returns an estimated $3 billion to Maryland taxpayers, but because of the way Maryland taxes are calculated, it automatically increases state taxes. So without any changes, the state was to collect a windfall of about $747 million.

When that windfall was discovered, the governor and legislative leaders all announced their desire to correct this mistake in the law and return the money to taxpayers. Unfortunately, most of the governor’s legislation, and other measures to hold taxpayers harmless, was defeated by the legislature with only about $100 million to be returned.

Hopefully we can correct this problem next year. See you on the campaign trail.

If you would like additional information on this or any other topic, visit my website at www.leg33.com or call my office at 410-841-3406.

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