The House Appropriations Committee treated counties very well on Friday when it voted on budget decisions. Votes concerning counties include:
- The Committee voted against the Governor’s proposal to shift costs for operating the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) onto the counties. It voted to accept the Department of Legislative Services (DLS)’s recommendation to reject the proposal in the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2017 (BRFA), which would increase counties’ reimbursement for SDAT functions including costs of real property valuation, business personal property valuation, and information technology. It also would have made counties responsible for a portion of costs of the Director’s Office.
- The Committee voted to reject a DLS recommendation to flat fund highway user revenues. Staff had recommended that the General Assembly eliminate the extra “capital grants” provided in the Governor’s proposed budget, to be distributed to local roads and bridges. DLS had recommended only funding the limited extra amount required to maintain current funding levels, and proposed diverting those funds to fill gaps in the General Fund supporting the Maryland State Police.
- The Committee voted to to reject a DLS proposal to require local health departments to absorb costs of contractual employee health insurance. The proposal amounted to a $1.6 million cost shift to local health departments.
- The Committee also voted against a BRFA provision which would flat fund disparity grant aid, to levels set as of the November 2, 2016 Department of Public Works meeting. At that meeting, the State passed midyear cuts to the program (a reduction of about $8.4 million to affected counties). These cuts would have amounted to a $6 million impact to Prince George’s and about a $1 million impact to Wicomico and Baltimore City. The Committee further voted to make Baltimore City’s distribution contingent upon its making additional funds available for Baltimore City Public Schools.
The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee starts its budget decision-making process today. If the Senate makes different decisions than the House did, the budget committees will confer in conference committee to arrive at consensus decisions on these and all budgetary items.