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Archive for the ‘Budget’ Category

$1.7 B MD Structural deficit replaced with $2 B shortfall?

Posted by Ed C on Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gov. O’Malley has released his 2010 budget (2010 Maryland Budget Highlights) that increases state spending by at least $709 million dollars.   We were told in 2007 that Maryland had a $1.7 billion structural deficit that would be fixed by increasing taxes and having slot machines.  Now, we are told that we face a $2 billion dollar deficit, even after making painful cuts

Just as our families face the very real challenge of doing more with less, so too must those of us in government.  By necessity, the budget we are presenting today is unprecedentedly lean. It closes our projected $2 billion shortfall for fiscal year 2010 at a time when we’ve already enacted $2.2 billion in painful spending reductions. In addition, it eliminates hundreds of State positions on top of the 1,500 jobs we’ve already eliminated.

Spending reductions? From the same report  (in millions):

  • 2008   29,569
  • 2009  30,853
  • 2010  31,562 (proposed)

So where is the 2.2 billion in reductions?  Spending from 2009 to 2010 is proposed to increase by $709 million and $1,993 million since 2008.

According to the Spending Affordability Committee 2008 Interim Report released in December, the state of Maryland had 81,582 positions in 2008 and this was reduced to 81,247 positions in 2009.  A reduction of 335 positions (0.41%).  But wait:

Despite the decline in the number of authorized positions, the committee notes that, exclusive of higher education, there are currently more than 3,340 vacant Executive Branch positions, approximately 523 of which are funded, in the 2009 budget.  The higher number of funded vacant positions suggests that many additional workforce needs may be addressed through full utilization and reallocation of existing resources.

Are the “hundreds” of positions Gov. O’Malley claims will be eliminated really just not filling these 543 funded positions? The SAC recommends a position cap of 80,247, which if my math is correct would still enable the state to add 2340 employees.

Adding 2K+ employees is not a cut.  Adding more than $700 million in spending is not a reduction.

If you have ever wondered how we’ve gotten into this mess, a  good history of the State budget system and the Spending Affordability Committee was released by the Cecilia Januszkiewicz and the Free State Foundation in December, Structural Solutions for Maryland’s Structural Deficit: Pathways to Reform, but this may be a topic for a future post.

Posted in Budget, Ed C, Maryland, O'Malley | Leave a Comment »

Where did Maryland spend our money?

Posted by Ed C on Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In 2008, the state of Maryland paid vendors in the 21045 area code – $46,892,252.67. And it took just a few seconds to find out thanks to the Maryland Funding Accountability & Transparency web site.

The site launched Jan 8th, and now you can see by agency, vendor or zip code where the state of Maryland is spending your money.

The Maryland Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2008, was sponsored by Del. Warren Miller (R-Howard County) (detail here)

Posted in Budget, Ed C, Maryland | Leave a Comment »

Howard County Council Budget Hearing Tonight (5/5 @ 7:00 PM)

Posted by Ed C on Monday, May 5, 2008

Do you have $0.02 left after taxes that you would like to share with the Howard County Council on the budget?  Testimony begins at 7:00 – before the scheduled work session.

Posted in Budget, Ed C, Howard County | 1 Comment »

Howard County Budget Comparison and Hearing Schedule.

Posted by Ed C on Sunday, April 27, 2008

Well, it is budget time in Howard County. The budget schedule is outlined in the Baltimore Sun (Budget hearings, work session set) and can also be found on the Howard County web site (http://www.co.ho.md.us/CountyCouncil/CC_BudgetCalendar.htm)

Tuesday, April 29, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.; continue at 7:00 p.m.
Public Hearing – Capital and Operating Budgets

Wednesday, April 30, 7:00 p.m.
Public Hearing – Operating Budget

The final vote is cureently scheduled for May 22nd.

How does Howard County’s budget compare with spending across the state? Well according to the Maryland Manual Online, and 2006 census numbers, the average spending per person is $2349.60. Howard County’s $1,325,373,662 ranks number one at $4,865 (and this does not count the Columbia Association CPRA or any HOA fees). A complete comparison by Maryland counties is shown in the attached graph below.

Posted in Budget, Ed C, Howard County | Leave a Comment »

Beware the brackets – a hidden way to increase county spending?

Posted by Ed C on Monday, April 7, 2008

Buried in Howard County Bill 15-2008 (pdf) are a set of double brackets that may be a back door attempt by Ken Ulman to increase county spending. The introduction seems innocent enough (emphasis added):

AN ACT amending certain definitions; amending the amount and clarifying the enforcement of the mobile home park refuse collection charge; clarifying the fee for the collection of excess refuse; amending the refuse collection charge assistance program to clarify that the Department of Finance shall administer the program and to amend the amount of the credit; making certain technical corrections; and generally related to refuse collection charges in Howard County.

But a closer look at those pesky “certain technical corrections” under Section 20.900:

Section 20.900. Definitions.
(e) Refuse Collection Service: Refuse Collection Service means the collection and disposal by the county of solid waste[[, excluding the separate collection and processing of recyclable materials]].

Currently trash collection and disposal costs are paid with a annual $175 fee paid by Howard County residents, while the the costs associated with recycling are paid from the general fund. If this legislation is adopted as currently written, the costs for both programs will fall under the “trash collection” fee.

So what? We the taxpayer pay for both anyway, what difference does it make what accounting bin the money comes from? Well, according to public works director James M. Irvin (from the Baltimore Sun: Ulman wants recycling costs moved)

The trash fee raised $14 million for this fiscal year, which is close to what the county expects to pay for trash disposal, according to public works director James M. Irvin. Shifting recycling costs to that fund would mean more revenue would be needed to cover costs.

The current costs for collection in the recycling program is $5 million. That cost is offset by $1.4 million in the sale of recycled materials. This “technical correction” will place an additional $3.6 million dollar of costs into the trash collection “account.”

The current county trash disposal contract expires in 2013 and County officials are expecting a large jump in costs. So, when the county looks to increase the $175.00 fee, the total costs are going to appear even higher (about $45 per household)  when the recycling costs and the general trash collection fees are combined.

If this change passes, will Ken Ulman and the County Council reduce the general budget and reduce our taxes to offset this change?  Or, will this become “found money” and spent elsewhere, effectively increasing or tax burden?

Greg Fox (R-District 5) is going to seek such an amendment, but I was unable to find it posted on the County web site.

Posted in Budget, Ed C, Howard County, Taxes, Ulman | Leave a Comment »

Technology Tax

Posted by David Keelan on Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I don’t think I had to go to grad school to learn how regressive taxes can be to the economy.  One of the models we used last semester measured the effect of taxes on supply and demand.  Granted it was only a model (much more reliable than some of the climate change models – do you hear me Dr. Manns) but the point was that when misapplied taxes are growth killers.

That is why I think it is odd that while heading into recession (a growth killer of its own) Martin O’Malley needed to raise taxes.  Did the state of the current economy creep up on us?  No it didn’t.  We saw this coming – but instead of digging in and slashing spending it was decided that the best way to tackle an economic slow down was to take more money out of the economy.  If we are hurting now why not pile it on!

In economic terms Government spending is called an investment in the economy.  Many people will take that little piece of knowledge and try to beat fiscal conservatives over the head with it.  They want to twist that little piece of news into good news.  What they don’t want to hear is that private investment in the economy is much better and sustainable than Government spending.  In addition, there is less danger to freedom if Government is not permitted to grow.  That is what true conservatives really care about.

We are already seeing a decline in sales tax revenue because of the double whammy of higher taxes and the economy.  What kind of revenue increase do you think Annapolis is going to realize in new technology taxes?  They can only project that information.  They also projected that they will realize less jobs in this sector, which means smaller pay rolls, and lower income and sales taxes.  How do you think they balance those kinds of decisions?  These are smart people.  They know that the industry will suffer negative consequences and that this is a wealth redistribution scheme.  Do you think they cared about these technology workers and employees, and the companies (and those employees) who buy from them?  No, they felt it was an acceptable risk.

We are talking about the well being of real people.  Supporters of these taxes say it is for the greater good!  Sorry, I don’t buy it.  It is a money grab.  The business people have it and O’Malley wants to redistribute it among HIS priorities.

Today technology is not an option for a lot of companies, but there is a lot of discretionary spending in technology.  There are lots of substitute available in the market (just look on eBay).  Buyers can decide to postpone buying decisions – and according to game theory they likely will postpone buying decisions.  With the current economic environment and these taxes they are going to see a drastic slow down in technology spending.

Will the technology sector recover?  Eventually.  It usually does but it lags the rest of the economy.  The point is this.  Martin O’Malley just made the recession a lot worse for a lot of little guys in the technology business whether they work for Cisco, SAP, or are the owner of Tom’s LanWarehouse.

In the mean time he is doling out $600,000 pay raises.  Does anyone else find that to be ironic?  Do you really think Martin O’Malley cares?  He is a nice person, but he really is not thinking about these employees and small business people he is thinking about all the spending promises he made.

I voted for Ehrlich.

Maryland Computer Services Sales Tax hearings in Annapolis

Meetup: http://taxreform.meetup.com/27/calendar/7472261
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=11240944457
Follow us on Twitter @TCMMdBio

When: March 12, 9:00 AM

Where: Lawyer’s Mall Annapolis, MD (directly in front of the State House and next to the Governor’s Mansion)

Why: This new tax, which takes effect July 2008, will put many Maryland businesses at a severe disadvantage. Small businesses — the least able to sidestep the tax — will be particularly affected.  This tax will hurt the welfare of industries beyond the Tech sector and will also drive some businesses out of state! Imposing a 6% sales tax on computer services like computer facilities management, network maintenance and custom programming is bad policy.

RSVP: Brian Levine BLevine@techcouncilmd.com, Facebook or Meetup.

—–

Please mark your calendar to SPEND THE MORNING IN ANNAPOLIS Wednesday, March 12. The rally will crescendo just before 10 a.m. as legislators walk past the rally to their floor sessions in the State House.

Later that afternoon, Tech Council of Maryland staff and volunteer leaders will testify in hearings on the six percent Computer Services Sales Tax issue in both the House and the Senate. If you care about this issue, please mark March 12 on your calendars. We will need a huge business presence in Annapolis for the hearings.

Fight Tech Tax Coalition members include Tech Council of Md, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Baltimore Tech Council, the Charles County Tech Council, Montgomery County Chamber and Howard County Chamber. Thank-you for your support!

Posted in Budget, General Assembly, Maryland | 1 Comment »

Howard County Council Meets Tuesday 2/19 – 7:30 PM

Posted by Ed C on Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The county council is meeting tonight and the agenda includes Council Bill 9-2008 which would provide a searchable web site for Howard County spending. This bill was introduced by Greg Fox (R-District 5) and Courtney Watson (D-District 1). The full agenda for the meeting is available from the Howard County Council.

This bill is modeled after the legislation (MD House Bill 358) introduced by Warren Miller (R-9A) to provide a similar site for state spending.

Posted in Budget, Ed C, Howard County | Leave a Comment »

Maryland Spending Web Site (MD House Bill 358)

Posted by Ed C on Sunday, February 10, 2008

Howard County Delegate Warren Miller along with Gale Bates and other Howard county delegates (Bobo, Guzzone, F. Turner) are sponsoring HB 385, The Maryland Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2008 (pdf).  This bill seeks to create a search-able web site that will allow everyone to see how the State of Maryland is spending our money.

This will be a valuable tool for Marylanders and provide a new openness and transparency to our government – let’s support this bill.

Posted in Budget, Ed C, General Assembly, Maryland | 5 Comments »

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.

Posted in Budget, Ed C, Maryland, O'Malley | 1 Comment »

Kill GTV – (Stop Spam?)

Posted by Ed C on Saturday, January 12, 2008

There is a story out there that the county is going to stop funding the Howard County Government TV to save money.  Starting in July 1, 2008 the channel is planned to be merged with Howard County Community College.

How do I know this?  Well, at the BlogTail Happy hour sponsored by Jessie Newburn at (Hometown Columbia), one of the bloggers asked if anyone else had received an email with this little fact.  Although I had not seen it at he time, it turns out that I had received one sent at 3:41 PM with a not so clever yahoo email address.  This same enterprising Verizon customer then proceeded to add a comments last night on multiple threads on this blog (most have since been marked as spam and removed.)

The story from the Baltimore Sun –  8 to lose jobs as Howard TV studio closes states that this will save $500,000 a year.

Is this post rewarding bad behavior?  After first hearing about this and then seeing the article in the Sun, I would have probably chosen to write about it anyway.  With the thread spamming – well that almost made me decide to not post this so as not to reward bad behavior.

Saving $500,000 is a good thing.  Will the loss of H-GTV be the end of government transparency?   I am a political junkie and regularly listen to CSPAN radio in my car when talk radio switches to sports or other programming.  My IPod/ITunes are filled with Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, the Northern Alliance, Captain Ed and blog talk radio clips.  And I’ve watched H-GTV maybe once.  And that was only when I wanted to re-watch a candidates forum last election cycle that I had already attended!

I am afraid that H-GTV is one of those things that sound better in theory than in practice.   (In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice;  In practice, there is – Chuck Reid)  With the internet, I’d rather see transcripts posted in a timely manner than trying to figure out when a particular segment would air and then watch it.

The county is going to merge the channel with HCCC, so why not sponsor a TV/Reporting curriculum where students can get practical experience and course credit for recording and producing county hearings and events?  The infrastructure is already in place and it should dramatically reduce costs to Howard County residents while still providing a visual recording of the events.  Posting these events in YouTube fashion would enable residents to watch events on demand.  Reduced cost, increased access and practical experience for students – the only down side is that a spammer may need to find a new job.  Just a thought.

Posted in Budget, Ed C, Howard County | 6 Comments »