Speaker of the House Michael Busch, House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chair Edward Kasemeyer, and the Governor’s Chief Legislative Officer Stacy Mayer, addressed the MACo membership on Friday, January 4 during the MACo winter conference. Each speaker shared his or her views on issues to be discussed during the upcoming legislative session.
Speaker Busch began his comments by thanking the counties for working with them to address the structural deficit. He also said that this upcoming session will not be an emotional one since issues such as gay marriage and immigrant tuition have been dealt with, but we will see death penalty and gun legislation. Possibly starting a new trend, Speaker Busch then provided a PowerPoint presentation which examined populations trends, median salary, tax rates, and education spending (both operating and capital) by county.
In response to the Speaker’s PowerPoint presentation, Minority Leader O’Donnell suggested that the funding relationship between the State and local governments is much more complicated than the picture presented and that Maryland has a strong redistribution of wealth philosophy. On the closing of the structural deficit, he said that many big challenges lie ahead and that Maryland needs to be prepared for retrenchment at the federal level. Delegate O’Donnell also said that citizens are “maxed out” after the tax increases that have occurred. As for the upcoming session, he said to expect conversation on school safety and possibly ethic reforms.
Senator Kasemeyer said that now that we have accomplished the goal of eliminating the structural deficit, it is a time of transition and we need to recreate what government can do. He said that planning for sequestration will be difficult. With respect to a gas tax, the Senator said that this will difficult without a transportation secretary in place. Senator Kasemeyer also offered comments on two of MACo’s 2013 legislative initiatives. He said he wants to look at providing for county membership on the state’s pension board and providing a gas tax exemption for counties similar to that of the state. This exemption would only apply to motor fuel bought in bulk by county agencies for use in county vehicles.
As the first woman to address the MACo membership as a part of this influential panel, Stacy Mayer said she that appreciates the working relationship she has with MACo. She knows that the past few years have been painful, but closing the structural deficit is a tremendous accomplishment. During the upcoming session she expects the Governor will have some public safety initiatives, which will have mental health components.
Additional coverage of the session can be found in the Washington Post.