Maryland Governor’s Grants Office Workshop – June 24

The Maryland Governor’s Grants Office is co-hosting with eCivis to bring a nationally renowned grants expert to Maryland on Wednesday, June 24th.  This one-day workshop will be led by Dr. Beverly Browning (“Dr. Bev”), who is​ a noted authority in helping local governments and non-profits win millions in grants.

Dr. BevShe has authored 41 grant-related publications, including five editions of Grant Writing for Dummies.

Objectives:

Dr. Bev will lead you through a day filled with award-winning grant writing techniques, keyword research strategies, tips on building relationships with private-sector funders, and methods for capturing federal competitive grants.

​Five Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits will be awarded for attending.

  • Recognizing red flags in Notices of Funding Availability (NOFAs) – so you know which competitive grants to pursue and which your community will likely not win.
  • Understanding how funding decisions are made – what’s not in print that can help your community win more highly competitive grants.
  • Translating your community’s grant-related needs into a compelling storytelling format – traditional writing approaches won’t win grant awards in 2015.
  • Developing an evidence-based project design – the one area where most grant applicants fail to receive 100% of the peer review points.

Register before June 12 for Early Bird Savings!

U.S. House Passes Short Term Measure to Fund Transportation, Senate Passage Anticipated

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed another short-term measure to fund the Highway Trust Fund. The measure, which extends the current May 31, 2015 funding deadline to July 31, 2015, will keep the trust fund viable until Congress returns from the Memorial Day holiday and focuses on a long-term funding plan.

As reported by Better Roads,

The bill, introduced by Congressmen Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, and Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), House Ways and Means Committee chairman, extends funding for the Highway Trust Fund until July 31 through a series of “reconciliation of funds” measures amending the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014.

The bill now goes on to the Senate. Expectations are for passage prior to both chambers leaving May 21 for the Memorial Day holiday.

As previously posted on Conduit Street, congressional transportation authorization expired in 2009.  Since that time, Congress has passed a number of short-term measures to continue funding the trust fund.

Better Roads also provides a summary of the legislation, the Highway Transportation Funding Act of 2015.

Franchot Calls for Upper Shore Treatment Center to Reopen

Comptroller Peter Franchot has called for the reopening of the Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center. Franchot believes the center, which was closed in 2010 to save money, should not have been closed. This came during a Board of Public Works meeting on Wednesday, May 13, in which Franchot questioned the Deputy Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene Bernard Simons about opening discussions with the department about the feasibility of reopening the center.  As reported in The Cecil Whig:

He called the Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center an “exceptional facility” that should have never been closed — a sentiment echoed by Eastern Shore lawmakers.

The topic has circled among Eastern Shore lawmakers for years, who have discussed the hospital’s importance since its closure. Senate Minority Whip Steve Hershey (R-Upper Shore) and Delegate Jay Jacobs (R-Kent), who has unsuccessfully put in a number of bills mandating the hospital’s reopening, responded to Franchot’s statements on Friday.

“With the heroin overdose epidemic being a huge problem on the Eastern Shore and statewide, it has become both obvious and imperative that the Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center should be reopened,” Hershey said.

Hershey said Franchot has been a proponent of the mental health center, and that lawmakers met with him last year seeking his support for their advocacy efforts and he assured them he would do what he could to reopen it.

The 40-bed facility was the only facility in the state hospital system to offer treatment for patients with dual diagnosis of substance abuse and mental health illness, Hershey said, adding that its closing left many patients in the community without care.

For more information read the full article in The Cecil Whig.

Editorial Lauds Governor’s Decision to Fund Pensions

An editorial in the Washington Post describes the merits of Governor Hogan’s decision to withhold $68 million in education funding with a pledge to provide that funding to the State’s pension system instead. The piece defends the decision, stating that there are long-term negative budgetary consequences of altering the legislature’s pension funding plan.

The legislature may push back, but it will be on shaky policy grounds if it does. Just four years ago it agreed that the pension fund was a priority. Now, with a Republican governor, it has churlishly changed its mind, despite warnings from bond-rating firms in New York that the fund remains a weak point in state finances.

In picking a fight, the legislature would jeopardize the state’s long-term budgetary health.

For more information, read the whole editorial from the Post here.

Montgomery County’s Small Business Program Generates New Jobs, $103 Million in Loans

Montgomery County’s “Small Business Plus!” program generated $103 million in new small business loans and 380 new jobs in 2014. The county invested $50 million in the program which was established in 2012. As announced in a county news release:

Through a unique collaboration between Montgomery County and community banks headquartered in the County, “Small Business Plus!” was developed to promote job growth through small business lending and earn a competitive rate of return for the County on its investment. County funds are deposited in participating community banks — which agree to at least match each dollar with an equal amount in new small business lending.

“I am very pleased with the success of our ‘Small Business Plus!’ program over the past three years,” said County Executive Ike Leggett. “This partnership with community banks boosts new lending to local businesses to create new jobs that lower the County’s unemployment rate and improve the County’s economy—and we earned over $117,000 in interest on our deposits.”

“This is an opportunity for Montgomery County to do ‘well’ — and do ‘good’ at the same time,” added Leggett.

For more information read the county news release.

President Restricts Transfers of Military Equipment to Local Police Departments

President Obama has issued an order restricting the federal government from distributing certain military equipment to local law enforcement agencies across the country. The announcement was made in Camden, New Jersey, a city that has embraced the president’s community policing movement. As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

“We’ve seen how militarized gear can sometimes give people a feeling like there’s an occupying force, as opposed to a force that’s part of the community that’s protecting them and serving them,” Obama said. “It can alienate and intimidate local residents and send the wrong message.”

But while the change stops the government from handing over some equipment, including weaponized aircraft, bayonets, grenade launchers and armored vehicles that run on tracks, it still allows police departments to acquire riot gear, specialized firearms and armored trucks with tires, as long as they get training and special permission from local authorities.

The article also notes that:

Police departments in Maryland have received more than $12 million in excess equipment from the Defense Department’s Excess Property Program since 2006.

Items include a $400,000 “mine-resistant vehicle,” more than 2,000 assault rifles, 873 semiautomatic handguns and 220 12-gauge shotguns, according to Pentagon data.

Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake welcomed the announcement and mentioned local efforts of reform:

“Both cities struggle with violent crime and the need for more economic opportunity,” she said. “However, both cities have also shown proactive commitment to building trust between the community and the police.

“Like Camden, we have made reforms that put more officers on the street during peak periods of time. We’ve also accepted the My Brother’s Keeper community challenge, and our city is aggressively moving forward with reforms outlined in the task force recommendations, such as police body cameras.”

For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun.

Prince George’s Business Groups Offer Alternative Tax Proposal to Fund Education

A group of Prince George’s County business leaders have proposed increasing the county property tax by 8 cents instead of the 15 cents proposed by County Executive Baker in his FY 2016 budget. While supportive of increasing funds for education, the business leaders think an increase of 15 cents is to just way too much.

As reported by the Washington Post,

“By 2020, the County Executive’s proposal aspires to be a top-ten system…” the chamber said in a statement. “These are laudable goals that could be attained without such high tax increases.” The Chamber released its proposal on Monday.

Raising property taxes by 7.8 percent — or from $0.96 per $100 of assessed value to $1.03 per every $100 — would generate about $64 million in revenue for Prince George’s schools, the chamber calculated.

…“Even these [proposed tax hikes] are painful,” Harrington said, adding that his organization presented its plans to both the executive and legislative branches. “But we acknowledge the need to invest in our children.”

The 15 cent property tax increase proposed by the County Executive would yield $133 million for the county school system. While the County Executive has indicated a willingness to compromise, he also stated that less revenue “would not yield the desired transformation he seeks.”

Baker’s budget administrator, Thomas Himler, said the county executive has received but not yet reviewed the chamber’s proposal. He cautioned that any reduction in the proposed tax rate would “be scaling back the progress we think we can achieve … If it’s half, then we’ll only be able to do half as much.”

The County Council has not yet taken action on the proposed budget plan.  However, the Council must pass a balanced budget by June 1.

Additional information and previous coverage of County Executive Leggett’s  proposed FY 2016 budget can be found on the county’s website and Conduit Street.

Wynne Income Tax Case Has Severe Fiscal Consequences for Counties

As reported on Conduit Street yesterday, the US Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that Maryland’s income tax system, specifically the application of the local income tax, is unconstitutional and must be altered to grant more credits for Maryland residents’ out-of-state income. At issue in the case, Maryland State Comptroller of the Treasury v. Brian Wynne, was whether the failure to allow a credit against the county income tax violates the commerce clause because it discriminates against interstate commerce.

The decision, which divided the conservative members of the Court, will have severe fiscal consequences for local governments. As reported by the Washington Post,

The ruling affects about 55,000 Maryland taxpayers, according to the state comptroller’s office.

Those who tried to claim the credit on their county income tax returns between 2006 and 2014 are likely to be eligible for refunds, which officials estimate could total $200 million with interest.

Going forward, certain small-business owners who pay income taxes to another state on income earned in that state will be able to claim a credit for both the state and county portions of the Maryland tax, costing Maryland an estimated $42 million a year in revenue.

Many local governments had begun planning for the worst, but it will still strain their budgets. As reported by Baltimore Sun,

Officials in Baltimore established a $4.2 million reserve early in the litigation to cover the estimated cost of reimbursing city taxpayers. Going forward, officials expect to lose about $1.4 million in revenue annually.

“This decision will obviously cost the city some revenue which will require some difficult choices be made down the road,” said Kevin Harris a spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “However, the mayor thought it was important that the city be proactive and plan ahead [and] funds were set aside to cover potential loss of revenue.”

Montgomery County will take the largest hit, according to estimates from the comptroller’s office and county officials, at just over $24 million per year — more than half the statewide total.

When the cost of reimbursing taxpayers is added to lost revenue, Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett said Monday, the impact in fiscal year 2017 could exceed $50 million.

The next largest (annual) losses would fall in Baltimore County, at $4.5 million, and Anne Arundel County, at $3.6 million, according to state estimates.

A spokeswoman for Baltimore County described it as “a significant cut” that would “necessitate some difficult choices in the future.”

For more details on the case, see previous Conduit Street coverage:

Maryland Loses Wynne Income Tax Case – Counties Brace for Impact
With Income Tax Case Looming, State Adopts Follow-Through Plan
Wynne Income Tax Case Provokes Conversation and Questions at Supreme Court
U.S. Solicitor General Backs Maryland In Local Income Tax Case
Supreme Court Demonstrates Interest in County Income Tax

Full coverage of the case, including all legal documents and filings, is available at the SCOTUSblog website.

Governor’s Heroin Task Force Western Regional Summit Held in Hagerstown

Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford and the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force held a Western Maryland Regional Summit in Hagerstown on Monday, May 18. This is the fourth such regional summit. The task force and audience members heard from representatives and community members from Allegany, Frederick, Garrett and Washington Counties on the impact of heroin and opioid on their communities and suggestions as to what gaps still need to be filled. Speakers also talked about successful local programs that the task force may take into consideration to replicate statewide as they continue to meet with communities across the state to help develop a comprehensive plan for addressing the opioid issue.

As reported in The Frederick News-Post:

[Frederick County Health Officer Dr. Barbara] Brookmyer spoke about an initiative that launched two weeks ago in which a peer recovery support expert was embedded in Frederick Memorial Hospital’s emergency department to identify patients with drug or substance abuse problems.

“The first day they had eight referrals, next day six referrals, the next day after that eight referrals, so already that one individual is getting close to the maximum amount of individuals he can effectively serve,” Brookmyer said, highlighting the importance of funding for similar efforts.

Funding was a recurring theme throughout the summit that Rutherford addressed during a break. Rutherford stopped short of supporting more funding for substance-abuse programs, saying he believes the problem can be addressed by making sure the money currently allocated is used more efficiently.

“The challenge is … everything is a priority; everything is very important, but there’s a limited amount of resources,” Rutherford said. “One of the things that Gov. [Larry] Hogan has tasked all of us with is making sure that the money we put into programs are being used most effectively, so it may not be an issue of more money.”

As reported on Herald-Mail Media:

Among the morning speakers, there was a general consensus that incarceration by itself has not worked.

Washington County Sheriff Doug Mullendore once again advocated for a day-reporting drug treatment center at the summit.

“Until we start recognizing that this is a medical issue and not necessarily a criminal issue, then we’re not going to get to the root of the problems that we have,” Mullendore said.

He said that efforts to confront the issue include administering Vivitrol to heroin addicts at the Washington County Detention Center to help them deal with their addiction.

Mullendore said that the overwhelming majority of thefts and robberies in the county are committed by people with some type of addiction.

The agenda for the Western Maryland summit and information for the future regional summits on the Eastern Shore and in the Washington, D.C. region may be found on the task force’s website.

For more information:

Heroin Task Force Summit Opens Discussion to Frederick County Experts, Residents (The Frederick News-Post)

Western MD Officials Seek Solution to Heroin Scourge (Herald-Mail Media)

Previous coverage on Conduit Street:

Governor’s Heroin and Opioid Task Force Visits Southern Maryland

Central Maryland Heroin Task Force Regional Summit Held in Baltimore City

Wynne Income Tax Decision Puts Conservative Justices at Odds

The US Supreme Court ruled today that Maryland’s income tax system, specifically the application of the local income tax, is unconstitutional and must be altered to grant more credits for Maryland residents’ out-of-state income. This 5 – 4 decision in the Maryland State Comptroller of the Treasury v. Brian Wynne  has put the author of the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito, at odds with his conservative colleagues.  

A post in the “Hit & Run” blog describes the findings of the majority and dissenting opinions.

Because Maryland “creates an incentive for taxpayers to opt for intrastate rather than interstate economic activity,” declared the majority opinion of Justice Samuel Alito, “its law has the same economic effect as a state tariff, the quintessential evil targeted by the dormant Commerce Clause.”

The dormant Commerce Clause refers to the idea that the Commerce Clause, in addition to granting Congress a limited power to regulate interstate commerce, also provides a check on the regulatory and taxing authority of the states. That check, Alito explained, forbids the states “from discriminating against or imposing excessive burdens on interstate commerce.”

Alito’s sharpest critics proved to be two of his most conservative colleagues, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Scalia and Thomas each filed separate dissenting opinions, as did Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose dissent was joined by Justice Elena Kagan. According to Scalia, the dormant Commerce Clause is a “judicial fraud” that allows federal judges to rewrite state laws according to their own preferences. Thomas, meanwhile, argued that Alito’s take was totally at odds with constitutional history. “It seems highly implausible that those who ratified the Commerce Clause understood it to conflict with the income tax laws of their States and nonetheless adopted it without a word of concern,” Thomas wrote.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor all supported Alito’s opinion.

For more details on the case, see previous Conduit Street coverage:

Maryland Loses Wynne Income Tax Case – Counties Brace for Impact
With Income Tax Case Looming, State Adopts Follow-Through Plan
Wynne Income Tax Case Provokes Conversation and Questions at Supreme Court
U.S. Solicitor General Backs Maryland In Local Income Tax Case
Supreme Court Demonstrates Interest in County Income Tax

Full coverage of the case, including all legal documents and filings, is available at the SCOTUSblog website.