Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

How does increasing spending an additional $1.7B close a $1.7B budget gap?

Posted by Ed C on Sunday, January 20, 2008

Okay, I am confused. One thing is certain, the MD state budget is increasing. But how much? Well, it sorta depends on who you want to believe. According to Gov. O’Malley and the Baltimore Sun (Governor proposes lean operating budget) the budget is increasing 4%, but according to the Examiner (The truth behind budget numbers) and the state budget highlights (pdf – page 7) the budget is increasing 5.9%.

According to the official MD budget highlights, MD state spending in FY08 will be $29,788M and the projected FY09 spending is $31,546M an increase of $1,758M (5.9%). So we “had” to have an emergency session to raise an estimated $1.4B immediately – so that we could send $1.7B more? (see also the Examiner Editorial: The emergency that never was)

Maybe the debate on how to spend $50M in new bay clean-up funds (Baltimore Sun: Debate continues over use of new bay fund) is illustrative of the problem we have with our state funding as a whole.

The O’Malley administration wants to use its computerized “BayStat” system to determine how to spend a new $50 million Chesapeake Bay cleanup fund, a top official said yesterday.


“We want to be able to refocus funds from programs that aren’t working to those that are,” Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin told a Senate committee. “That’s another touchstone of BayStat: rigorous performance review,” he said.


But some lawmakers have other ideas about how the money should be spent, with House leaders wanting percentages for agricultural runoff prevention and other programs and some senators asking for accountability to make sure the money would actually reduce pollution.

Why would accountability even be an issue? One would hope that as Annapolis spends our money that they have some notion of where it is going and how effectively it is being used. Does it not make more sense to develop programs and rank them according to their effectiveness and cost and then allocate funds from the budget? Starting with $50M figure in mind, somehow I’ll bet that they spend every penny no matter what it is used for or how effectively.

What if the most effective programs only cost $47M, do you think they would return that $3M to the state treasury? So what’s a measly $3 million? Well, the $50M allocated for the new Bay Restoration fund only represents 0.16% of the state budget. But, saving $3M from a $50M is 6%. If they we able to “find” similar savings across the entire budget they could save $1.8B, the entire proposed increase and all without the $1.4B in tax increases just past.

Could they have held spending at the FY08 levels? Could they find 6% saving across the entire FY09 budget? Maybe not, but starting with the assumption that they need to spend every dollar of the $31.B revenue that the state is expected collect from Maryland taxpayers in FY09 is sure not a way to get there.

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One Response to “How does increasing spending an additional $1.7B close a $1.7B budget gap?”

  1. pzguru said

    Ed,

    I wish more of our elected officials had half the brains, common sense, and fiscal discipline that you have. Won’t you consider a run for the State House in 2010? You’d have my vote.

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