Senate Committee Votes On Budget: Disparity Grants, Transportation Aid Affected

Today the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee made a number of decisions on the budget which affect counties. The Committee concurred with the House to reject proposals to shift additional costs for State Department of Assessment and Taxation (SDAT) operations and local health department contractual employees’ health care to the counties. The Committee adopted new language concerning disparity grants and local transportation aid.

Disparity Grants Back, But…

Like the House, the Committee voted against a  Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2017 (BRFA) provision which would flat fund disparity grant aid, to levels set as of the November 2, 2016 Department of Public Works meeting. However, the Committee added budget language to restrict the disparity grants for each jurisdiction receiving an increase in fiscal 2018, requiring those jurisdictions to spend that money on public schools – over and above the amounts required to meet maintenance of effort. Language says:

Further provided that $6,028,886 of the appropriation made for the purpose of disparity grants shall not be expended until each of the following jurisdictions certify that it will spend the following amounts, equal to what that particular jurisdiction receives in excess of the fiscal 2017 grant, to increase local spending on public schools above the amount required to meet maintenance of effort for fiscal 2018.

Baltimore City                      $946,445

Cecil County                          $196,240

Prince George’s County     $4,245,462

Washington County            $52,938

Wicomico County                $587,801

Highway User Revenues Pared Back, DLS Concerns Addressed

The Committee voted to include BRFA language to address concerns expressed by the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) that the Governor’s “capital grants” are titled incorrectly and programmed inappropriately in out years. The Committee approved inclusion of the following language in existing statute:

Except as authorized by law, the Consolidated Transportation Program may not include capital transportation grants to counties or municipal corporations for any period beyond the budget request year ….

For the period beyond the budget request year, the financial forecast:

  1. Shall maximize the use of funds for the capital program; and
  2. Except as authorized by law, may not withhold or reserve funds for capital transportation grants to counties or municipal corporations.

The Committee approved the Public Safety, Transportation and Environment Subcommittee’s recommendation to provide 23 counties with $8.8 million in additional local transportation aid from last year. This is a reduction from the Governor’s proposal, which was adopted by the House, to provide transportation capital grants to counties and Baltimore City. Counties’ share was reduced from $27.4 million to $12.8 million, and Baltimore City’s share was reduced from $5.5 million to $3.7 million. These sums include the $4 million provided to counties and $2 million provided to Baltimore City for the last two years.

Senate Concurs With House Recommendation To Reject SDAT Cost Shift

The Committee concurred with the House and voted against the Governor’s proposal to shift costs for operating SDAT onto the counties. It voted to accept the DLS’s recommendation to  reject the proposal, 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.

Once the Senate adopts its proposed budget on the chamber floor, the budget committees will meet in conference committee to arrive at consensus decisions on these and all budgetary items.

Helpful Links:

House Looks Out For Counties In The Budget

Senate Subcommittee Pares Back Highway User Revenues

Senate Subcommittee Concurs on Rejecting Local Health Department Cost Shift