From the office of Del. Mary-Dulany James:
There is a lot of news from Annapolis this week, so I will get right to it:
Restoring Funds for Education
I am pleased to report that the Appropriations Committee, and the fiscal leaders I work with, are working to restore money taken by budget cuts from Kindergarten through 12th grade education that were in Governor O’Malley’s proposal. Many educators and parents contacted me asking for those funds to be restored, and I am glad that we were able to respond. The new recommendation would restore $58.5 million for K-12 schools across the State. I am particularly pleased by this because it will restore funds to schools in Harford and Cecil Counties that really need the money ($2.7 million to Harford County, and $1.3 million to Cecil County). It should also be noted that the federal government has provided education aid directly to our local boards of education. For example, Harford County is receiving over $1.5 million from the federal education jobs fund; Cecil is receiving $726,000. Additionally, over the next four years the local boards of education in Harford will receive nearly $3 million, and in Cecil nearly $2 million. To see more articles on the restoration of education funds see House leaders reach deal to restore school funding (Cecil Whig), or House to restore education money (Baltimore Sun).
Supporting Higher Education
I and Delegate Rudolph are committed to providing 4-year college and graduate education opportunities in Harford and Cecil Counties for our young people and life-long learners. We now have unanimous support for a task force for the Northeastern Maryland Higher Education and Applied Technology Center. This is a regional higher education technology center that would provide upper division undergraduate and graduate programs to meet the needs of Northeastern Maryland, particularly Harford and Cecil Counties. Such a regional college and graduate school will be a tremendous asset to our citizens. Our young people will be able to get the very best education without having to leave home. With new economy jobs in medicine, bio-technology, and applied technology, and with the new jobs coming from BRAC, Delegate Rudolph and I are committed to helping our young people and those that want or need to change careers to fill these jobs first.
Caring for Our Senior Citizens
I worked during this session on a bill that would have, in part, made Harford County’s first continuing care retirement community (CCRC) further economically feasible (House Bill 584). Conceptually, the Harford County Executive, his Economic Development Director, the Chairman of the Harford County Delegation, and at least a majority of the Delegation, supported using “sightseer money for seniors.” The Harford County Senators had already approved a mandatory additional tax credit for a CCRC in 2009 (most of a CCRC’s land and assets are already tax-exempt). Unfortunately HB 584 will not pass during this session, but I wanted to share some of the research that I did on the topic. I think that developing a retirement community that can serve our senior citizens – many of whom have lived here in the area for their entire lives – so they can stay here, is a worthy cause. I am reassured by the research done by the Department of Legislative Services, the Department of Aging, the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation, the Harford County Department of Economic Development, and the Harford County Office of Budget and Management Research, that using tax credits to support the non-profit work of housing and caring for senior citizens is the right thing to do, and is consistent with Maryland law. Please click here to see a research document on the subject – HB 584 Research and Background – Continuing Care in Retirement Communities, Aging in Place, and Hotel Tax.
This session has proven to be one of the most difficult but rewarding of my career serving you in the General Assembly. As always, I hope these updates are useful in keeping you up to speed with what I am working on here in Annapolis. I always appreciate your input on the issues that are most important to you. I hope you will drop in if you are in Annapolis!
Very Truly Yours,