From the office of Del. Kathy Szeliga:
The 2011 Legislative Session is winding down.
There are only 4 short days until the session is over!
The 2011 Budget bill is in the Conference Committee.
The Conference Committee is working out the differences in the House and Senate versions. We will have final answers on the many questions – pensions, health care issues, taxes, fees, etc. by the end of the week.
Today, the House of Delegates is voting on the Capital Budget. The Capital Budget is the money borrowed by the State of Maryland for large projects. The State is borrowing almost $1 Billion this year, at around $940 million. This budget has bond money for schools, roads and other projects in Maryland.
Also included in the Capital Budget borrowing is money to repay the special funded accounts that were raided – Program Open Space, Chesapeake Bay Fund, Helicopter Fund and others. Constitutionally, the debt service from this borrowing is paid by our property taxes. We are paying over $1 Billion per year in debt service currently. I have grave concerns that the path we are on will lead to increased property taxes.
Today, there were a number of reasonable amendments offered to the Capital Budget that would reduce State borrowing by:
5% across the board reduction – failed – vote was party lines
3% across the board reduction – failed – vote was party lines
1% across the board reduction – failed – vote was all Republicans and 2 Democrats
You can see that even during these austere times, the legislature is not willing to cut even 1% of borrowing. We are arguing these matters well on the House floor but the political machine is too well oiled to clog up the engine or even just get a stutter.
There was also an amendment offered to strike the “earmarks” in the Capital Budget. Within the Capital Budget is a process of local bond bills that equals $15 million, $7.5 million for the House and $7.5 million for the Senate. The Fiscal Note for the Capital Budget Local Bond Bills calls this money “earmarks.” I have found the local bond bill earmark process to be a horrible waste of time that encourages political patronage at its worst. The Appropriations and Budget and Tax Committees spent an entire Saturday and then another morning hearing a myriad of bond bill requests. During this process, legislators brought in funding requests for their favorite constituents and projects. This process needs serious reforming. Next year, I will be working on a bill to do just that. This amendment failed along party lines as well, protecting earmarks yet another year.
Despite the Republican’s well thought out and well argued points, the Capital Budget is marching to passage. It is very disappointing that we could not even get a 1% reduction in State borrowing.
Rest assured, we did hear you loud and clear during the last election – government should cut back just like you and your family have done. We continue to share this message in the House of Delegates.
Twisted Fate on Life Sentences:
This morning on the House floor, we debated at length a bill to allow criminals convicted of Life Sentences out of prison easier! Currently, these lifers must get permission from the governor to be paroled. The bill being debated says that if the governor does not say “no,” then by default the prisoner can be granted parole!!
This is a bi-partisan issue. The bill has been special ordered until later today – a procedural action that delays a bill on the floor.
I supported an amendment that says that Lifers cannot get paroled without the governor saying YES. No answer is still a NO.
More to come on this one….
What the Baltimore Sun says about Maryland’s “earmarks”
Julie Bykowicz, Baltimore Sun Reporter, comments on the $15 Million in earmarks in Maryland’s Capital Budget – “Pork-barrel spending”
The funding appeals are made through the General Assembly’s version of pork-barrel spending, under which capital projects are financed with debt issued through bonds by the state and repaid by taxpayers. In these cases, lawmakers not only bring dollars to their districts that they can laud in campaigns, but they also secure funding for causes to which they are personally connected.
Thanks for your continued support and encouragement. I am humbled and honored to be representing you and your family in Annapolis.
Maryland House of Delegates