House Minority Leader Addresses MACo

House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell addressed the MACo legislative committee on various budget and policy issues on February 24. “I always appreciate MACo offering us the opportunity to present differing perspectives”, he began.

Noting that the Joint Legislative Workgroup to Study State, County, and Municipal Fiscal Relationships had made recommendations concerning the maintenance of effort (MOE) waiver process, Delegate O’Donnell stated, “I think there is bipartisan consensus that we need to reform our maintenance of effort process”.  He noted that as a Joint Workgroup member, he supported the creation of an appeal process for waiver decisions and introduced legislation, supported by MACo, creating a right of appeal to the Office of Administrative Hearings.  He also stated that he thought the counties had demonstrated a desire to fund education.

Delegate O’Donnell also discussed the February 23 budget summit where the House Minority Caucus was invited to present their suggestions regarding the State’s ongoing budget deficit.  At the summit, the House Republicans proposed a list of FY 2011 cuts totalling $725 million over and above the budget submitted by Governor Martin O’Malley, including:  (1) defunding the Geographic Cost of Education Index, (2) using average daily attendance in education funding formulas; (3) reducing the State workforce by 1,500 employees (1,000 coming from the University of Maryland System); (4) redistributing High User Revenue money for Baltimore City to the rest of the counties; and (5) putting $82 million back in the budget to prevent additional furloughs of State employees.  He cautioned that if reductions were not made now, future year State deficits will swell to over $2 billion.

The Delegate also stated his opposition to shifting teacher pension costs onto the counties.  “If we shift costs onto you now,” he warned, “you have no choice but to put the burden on the taxpayers.”  Responding to a question concerning the fact that counties do not really have a say in setting teacher pensions, he noted, “Unfortunately and probably incorrectly, we lump education spending under local aid.”  

Delegate O’Donnell also warned about Maryland’s low pension funding (67% funded) and the emigration of businesses and the wealthy from the State.

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