End of SessionWritten by Johnny O on April 22, 2012
The 2012 Legislative Session has officially drawn to a close, and I am pleased to provide you with my End of Session Report. This overview covers some of the major developments of the session and, as always, my office would be happy to discuss the issues covered here (or any other issue considered by the General Assembly). Please do not hesitate to contact me anytime at my district office (410-282-1733), Annapolis office (410-841-3458), or by email email@example.com.
State Budget: Both House of the Maryland General Assembly proposed significantly different versions of the state budget, neither of which reflect Governor O’Malley’s initial budget proposal. Under the House plan, income taxes would have been raised on those making over $100,000 individually and $150,000 jointly under adjusted gross income (calculated after taxes are taken). The Senate’s plan would have increased income tax rate by a quarter percent on most people, as well as creating a new, unprecedented flat tax on all those making over $500,000 annually. I voted against both of the tax package as I felt very strongly that there are additional opportunities for the state to realize savings before having to turn to new tax revenue.
In a strange twist, and due to a disagreement between the House and the Senate over legislation that would have expanded gambling to include table games and add a sixth gambling site in Prince George’s county, the legislation that would have shared pension costs with local government (the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act, or BRFA) and a bill that would have raised income taxes both failed. As a result, the operating budget passed by both the Senate and the House is currently slated to balance the state’s books with no new taxes and $512 million in cuts. For a full list of programs impacted, you can find it here:
While Baltimore County stands to lose over $14 million under the plan, the cuts pale in comparison to jurisdictions such as Baltimore City ($59.6 million in cuts), Prince George’s ($65.4 million), and Montgomery County ($44.4 million). Some have suggested that the legislature return for a Special Session, given the failure of the BRFA, tax bill, and slots legislation. If there is a drumbeat for a special session to specifically raise taxes, you can be sure that it will come from members of these three jurisdictions, as any new revenue would largely be used to “plug the holes” that are necessitated by the cuts included in the Fiscal Year 2013 Operating Budget that passed.
Washington Day Address: I was honored this year to have the opportunity to deliver the Washington Day address to the House Chamber. It was a remarkable experience to be honored by my colleagues and family this year, and to craft a message that echoed President Washington’s call away from partisanship and divisiveness.
Flush Fee: This year’s capital spending plan includes tens of millions of dollars We to include upgrades for the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant as well as money to repair the pier at North Point State Park. Over half the costs of the upgrade at Back River is financed by the so-called “Flush Fee,” which was increased during the legislative session. Had this legislation failed, however, the requirement to upgrade the Back River Wastewater Treatment Facility would have still been in place, and, perhaps more importantly, would have cost users of the Baltimore City water service (nearly every resident of the 6th district and the entire Baltimore Metropolitan area) even more money. I am proud to report that I was actively involved in sun-setting the fee increase at the state level, so that the increase will be eliminated without any additional legislative action required, once payments for upgrades to the Back River facility and others are complete.
Same-Sex Marriage: The bill legalizing same sex marriage in Maryland passed through both Houses in the Maryland General Assembly and was signed into law by the Governor. I worked diligently with Maryland leaders to guarantee religious institutions, programs, and facilities would be heavily protected against promoting a practice contradictory to their deeply held religious beliefs. The bill does not take effect until January of 2013, guaranteeing that Marylanders have the time necessary to send the bill to a referendum in November. It is expected that residents will have the opportunity to weigh in on this issue during the General Election.
Public School Choice: I introduced a bill this year that would grant parents in Baltimore County the ability to send their children to any public school in the county, provided there is space for their child and that they assumed transportation responsibilities. We made great progress with this legislation, passing it through the Baltimore County Delegation. Though the bill did not head to the Senate, we were able to guarantee language in the state budget that would commission a study over the next year to determine cost and feasibility, setting the stage for exploring this issue even further during next year’s session.
Essex Skypark: Along with Delegates Weir and Minnick, I introduced legislation that will help protect the Essex Skypark by exploring whether it deserves a listing in the National Register of Historic Placing, thereby helping to prevent its elimination. I am happy to say this legislation passed, and we also were able to secure a commitment from County Executive Kamenetz that should enable us to preserve the Skypark for the foreseeable future for residents of the 6th district and all of Baltimore County.
Job Creation Tax Credit: I worked with the Department of Business and Economic Development to introduce and pass a bill that continues the provisions of the job creation tax credit program, which was otherwise set to expire in two years. This bill would increase the credit provisions for businesses hiring within a designated “revitalization area.” This bill is all about jobs, jobs, jobs, as it will continue to encourage businesses to continue hiring workers to good paying employment.
Gas Tax: The O’Malley administration proposed an increase in the gas tax in Maryland that would apply the current six percent sales tax to all fuel purchases. With gas well over three dollars a gallon, the impact would have been an increase of 20 cents per gallon, which could have easily pushed the cost of gas to over four dollars per gallon here in Maryland. Luckily, we were able to defeat the gas tax this year in Annapolis, thereby protecting Marylanders from another unnecessary tax increase. Given the ways in which our families are already suffering, and considering the disproportionate and untimely increase in toll rates that were recently enacted without legislative approval, there could hardly have been a worse time for such a proposal.
Local Improvements: We were able to secure significant gains for the 6th legislative district during this session. Included in this year’s budgetary language is increased financing for new and existing school construction (including millions to complete the new Dundalk High School and Sollers Point Technical Schools). Additionally, funds have been set aside for the repair of the North Point State Park Pier and the Dundalk Armory for the Maryland National Guard.
Baltimore County School Board: A bill proposed to change the Baltimore County school board from an appointed membership to a hybrid of elected and appointed members cleared both the Senate and the House, but was caught up in last-minute maneuvering and failed to receive a final vote that would have reconciled minor differences between the two chambers. Under the new legislation, there would have been six elected and five appointed members of the school board, in addition to the existing student member.
I am honored to represent the fine residents of District Six in the Maryland legislature – and take our time honored traditions of working hard, playing by the rules, and expecting a fair share from our government with me every time I have an opportunity to cast a vote in the House of Delegates.
With this session finally behind us, I look forward to seeing you at a community meeting or event in the southeastern part of Baltimore County in the months ahead!
With Sincerest Regards,
Delegate John A. Olszewski, Jr.
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