Legislation Requiring Counties to Maintain Spending Levels Creates Unreasonable Standard

As previously reported on Conduit Street, a late-introduced bill, SB 1055, would require counties to maintain funding levels year to year across a wide variety of services labeled in the bill as “critical.”  Counties are not the only ones raising concerns with this legislation.  A recent opinion piece in the Washington Post highlights the fiscal challenges counties would face should this legislation pass.

The effect of the bill would be to force local governments to maintain spending levels on jails, libraries, roads, police, sheriffs and fire departments. The measure would allow no exceptions, even as priorities shift, populations shrink or emergencies arise. To comply with the legislation in such circumstances, local officials would have no choice but to raise taxes, since cutting spending would be off the table.

The piece also points out the unreasonableness of the standard.

Now, with this bill, lawmakers would put much of non-school spending beyond the reach of rational budgeting. In Montgomery County, the state’s biggest locality, the bill, coupled with last year’s legislation shielding schools (plus obligatory debt payments and retiree health insurance) would mean 80 percent of local spending would be shielded from cuts in perpetuity. That’s nuts.