Comptroller Franchot Offers Insight, Guidance at MACo Meeting

Comptroller Peter Franchot joined MACo’s Legislative Committee meeting on September 16, sharing his perspectives on the health/economic crisis, the state budget picture, and the road ahead for Maryland.

Comptroller Franchot virtually visits
the MACo Legislative Committee

The Comptroller joined MACo’s meeting with updates on a variety of topics about the pandemic, the economy and revenues, and county priorities. During the followup questions, he shed additional light on budget issues still pending.

Some highlights:

Maryland unemployment – He expressed dismay at 1.1 million Marylanders filing first time unemployment claims, saying “we forecast that as many as half of those jobs won’t be there.”

Small Business Support – Franchot continued his urging that the State find funds, including $500 million from its own Rainy Day Fund, to support Maryland small businesses, saying “it’s a highest priority, right now, to support our small businesses.”

Time To Use Reserves? – The Comptroller spoke about his own willingness to tap into unspent reserves, citing the aphorism “it’s raining outside, we need to use it right now.”

Fiscal Picture Ahead – Despite a short-term carryover fund balance, buoyed by federal support, Franchot warned of troubling times ahead for public sector budgets, “the fiscal year we are in is going to be tough… next year, starting July 1, will be even tougher.”

State Budget Cutting – Referencing his work to delay many budgetary actions by the Board of Public Works (during its July 1 meeting), he did frame the picture ahead, “the problem could be up to $4 billion… if it’s like that, that will require major surgery.” He speculated that by the end of this calendar year, as data becomes more clear, “we’ll be all hands on deck.”

Raiding The County Income Tax? – Following a question about “unallocated county cuts” in a pending budget plan, Franchot responded that he hoped to develop information on “the county stake in this,” and offered his view that “taking your money” seemed “somewhat of a non-starter, to me.”

Unemployment Tax Bump – Franchot offered his support for any effort to relieve employers of an anticipated rate increase to replenish the Unemployment Insurance trust fund, noting that pandemic-driven layoffs “were out of their control.”

Keeping In Touch – Franchot reaffirmed his open door to county officials, sharing his personal contacts with the attendees, and emphasized his Board of Public Works role saying, “let’s communicate… let us know.”

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

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Previous Conduit Street Coverage: State Revenues Exceed Expectations, But Economic Uncertainty Looms

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