Carroll Likely To Extend Tax Credit For Fallen Heroes

The Carroll Board of County Commissioners plans to discuss and “likely pass” and extension on the Fallen and Disabled Heroes tax credit this Thursday, reports The Carroll County Times. firefighters-696167_1920

Last session the General Assembly approved and Governor signed SB 282/HB 571, which authorizes local governments to expand the existing optional property tax credit offered to disabled first responders and the surviving spouses of fallen and disabled first responders. Under existing law, local governments may offer disabled first responders and the surviving spouses of disabled or fallen first responders a property tax credit for homes acquired within two years of the event causing the disability or death. Beginning with taxable years that start after June 30, 2017, local governments may extend their property tax credits to cover properties acquired with 10 years of such an event. They may also grant the credits to cohabitants, in addition to surviving spouses. The law allows counties to determine whether to offer the credit, and if they do, the duration, amount, and additional terms of the credit.

Carroll County currently offers the credit for 100 percent of the local tax obligation for those who qualify, and plans to extend the credit to properties acquired within 10 years. The Commissioners held a hearing on the change in August.  The Carroll County Times reports:

These people put their lives on the line every day for the community, [Commissioner Stephen] Wantz said. And, he added, the pay for these public safety positions isn’t always commensurate with the risk involved.

Wantz said the main reason he went to bat for the legislation [in Annapolis] is because he’s seen law enforcement and rescue workers who have become disabled and what it can do to their lives.

“When something of that magnitude happens to you, two years doesn’t really give you the time to get your life in order,” he said.

Commissioners will discuss and potentially vote on the credit extension at their meeting this Thursday at 1 p.m.

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Update, September 19: The Board of Commissioners approved the changes:

Feds Raise Debt Ceiling, Approve Hurricane Aid & Flood Protections

males-1002779_1920Last week President Trump signed into law a funding bill to keep the federal government operational through December 15, 2017. The legislation raises the debt ceiling, extends the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and provides aid to areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

NACo reports:

For counties, the agreement ensures government funding will continue through the end of the year. The package also includes $15.25 billion for disaster relief, about half of which will flow through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the other half through community development block grants.

Extending NFIP, which was set to expire on September 30, is also a top county priority. Under this deal, the program will run through December 15 unless reauthorized. The last time Congress enacted a long-term reauthorization of NFIP was 2012, when lawmakers approved a five-year extension under the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-141). Then in 2014, with NACo’s support, Congress passed the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (P.L. 113-89), which included several key reforms to the Biggert-Waters Act favorable to counties.

Because a short-term solution was reached for the debt limit, government funding and NFIP, and given the expected increase in disaster costs, Congress is not done addressing any of these issues for the year.

Governor Requests Legal Action For Noisy Planes

plane-50893_1920Governor Larry Hogan wrote Attorney General Brian Frosh a letter requesting that he sue the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Administrator Michael Huerta over new flight patterns which have resulted in a flurry of noise complaints by Maryland residents.

The Next Generation Air Transportation System is a $35 billion system implemented at airports across the country, intended to cut down on delays and carbon emissions, reports The Baltimore Sun. The initiative has resulted in a number of changes at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport and at nearby Reagan National Airport.

But the new system has resulted in planes flying much closer to the ground near residential neighborhoods, according to a number of complaints raised by elected officials, community groups, and others.

The Anne Arundel County Council passed Resolution 31-17 last week urging FAA to modify flight paths and elevations imposed by the new system to where they were before, and to place warnings in the Automated Terminal Information System to ensure pilots comply.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the Attorney General has not yet indicated whether he will bring the lawsuit.  The paper quotes the Governor’s letter:

We have heard from countless Marylanders, including many community leaders and elected officials, about this continuing problem. This program has made many Maryland families miserable in their own homes with louder and more frequent flights which now rattle windows and doors…. As elected leaders of this state, we cannot allow this situation to stand.

 

Feds Leave Room For Locals On Automated Vehicles

On September 6, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously voted to approve the “SELF DRIVE Act,” which allows automakers to release up to 25,000 self-driving vehicles onto public roads without meeting existing auto safety standards within the first year, and gradually allows a total of 100,000 vehicles within three years.

The ease in federal regulation has pleased state and local officials, reports Government Technology:

With that support, officials say they hope the federal government leaves ample room for state and local governments to regulate planning, licensing and revenue generation related to autonomous vehicles.

Automakers must still demonstrate to the federal government that self-driving vehicles are just as safe as human-operated vehicles, but states maintain oversight of licensing, registration, safety inspections, insurance requirements, and traffic laws.

Nineteen states have passed legislation related to autonomous vehicles, and four governors have passed executive orders creating workgroups to look at how their states should proceed. Maryland is not one of those states, despite state transportation officials taking organized efforts to examine the impact autonomous vehicles will have in Maryland.

Last session, the Maryland Department of Transportation had Senate Bill 9 introduced to authorize the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to adopt regulations governing autonomous vehicles – but that bill died in committee. Over the last two years, Senator Serafini and Delegate Beidle have introduced legislation to create a task force to study the use of self-driving vehicles, which also either died in their respective committees or were withdrawn.

Regardless, in 2015, Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn established the Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAV) Working Group as the central point of coordination for the development and deployment of emerging CAV technologies in Maryland.  The Working Group handles strategic planning for MDOT concerning connected and automated vehicles. MACo and the County Engineers Association of Maryland are both represented on the Working Group.

For information on Maryland activity concerning automated vehicles, visit MVA’s website. For MACo’s prior coverage on automated vehicles in Maryland, click here.

MDOT Announces Schedule For Fall County Visits

2018_ctpcover_reduced_draftThe Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) has released its Fall 2017 Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP) Schedule, which begins in Queen Anne’s on September 25 and concludes on November 13 in Harford. The tour offers county officials the opportunity to meet with MDOT leadership and review the department’s draft Fiscal 2018 – 2023 CTP. 

MDOT describes the CTP:

The Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP) is Maryland’s six-year capital budget for transportation projects. The CTP contains projects and programs across the Department, including the Maryland Aviation Administration, the Motor Vehicle Administration, the Maryland Transit Administration, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the Maryland State Highway Administration, the Maryland Port Administration, and the Maryland Transportation Authority. The CTP includes capital projects that are generally new, expanded or significantly improved facility or service that may involve planning, environmental studies, design, right-of-way acquisition, construction or the purchase of essential equipment related to the facility or service. An expanded description is shown for each major project, along with a list of minor capital projects.

Working together with Maryland’s citizens, local jurisdictions and the local and State delegations, projects that preserve transportation system investments, enhance transportation services and expand transportation opportunities throughout the State are added to the CTP. 

The CTP Tour is required by state statute:

On or before November 15 of each year, the Department shall visit each county to give local governments and local legislative delegations information about and an opportunity to comment on the proposed Consolidated Transportation Program and the proposed Maryland Transportation Plan.

Baltimore City Considers Tax Break For Public Safety Officers

At today’s Baltimore City Council meeting, Council President Bernard “Jack” Young and Councilmember Eric Costello intend to introduce legislation to offer qualifying public safety officers a property tax credit for homes they own and personally occupy within city limits. The credit is intended to incentivize public safety officers to live where they work. It may not exceed $2,500 per tax year.

The Baltimore Sun quotes Council President Young:

Having more of our city’s public safety officials reside in Baltimore makes great sense from a fiscal standpoint, and will go a long way toward building better relationships between officers and the public they’re sworn to serve.

The Sun further reports that Mayor Catherine Pugh backs the legislation. As a State Senator, Mayor Pugh sponsored Senate Bill 552, which authorized the City to offer the tax credit. Delegate Mary Washington introduced the bill’s crossfile on behalf of then-Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s administration.

All local governments received authority from the State last session to issue a similar property tax credit to public safety officers who live and work within their jurisdictions through House Bill 979. The new law became effective on June 1, 2017, for tax years beginning in fiscal 2018.

HURry! Get Your Highway User Revenues Here!

Attention county finance officers and public works officials: like receiving your highway user revenues? Good!

In that case, don’t forget to fill out the mandatory Report on Uses of Highway User Revenue (HUR) for Fiscal Year 2017, available on the State Highway Administration (SHA)’s website. The annual report is due no later than September 30, 2017.

SHA’s cover letter is available here.

Please don’t forget to copy Barbara Zektick on your submission, at bzektick@mdcounties.org.

Contact Okey Odinammadu or Norli Belforti with any questions or concerns.

Feds Support Local Airports

The federal government is looking out for Maryland’s local airports.

Delmarvanow reports that Crisfield-Somerset County Airport will receive $411,000 in federal grant money for repairs and improvements to runways, the Salisbury-Ocean City Wicomico Regional Airport and Easton-Newnam Field Airport will each get about $90,000, and the Bay Bridge Airport in Stevensville will get about $78,000.

In addition to the Eastern Shore awardees, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen announced a number of awards to other local airports in the state. They announced a $2,812,938 Department of Transportation (DOT) grant for the Montgomery County Airpark Airport in Gaithersburg. According to the release, the funds will support rehabilitation and enhancement of a key runway and construction of a new lighting system.  Western Maryland airports will receive $5,660,000 for runway improvements and construction of taxiway extensions: The Richard A Henson Field Airport (HGR) in Hagerstown will receive $260,000, while the Greater Cumberland Regional Airport (CBE) in Cumberland will receive $5,400,000.

The grants are awarded through the DOT, Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program. According to the federal listing of grant awardees, other recent local Maryland airport awardees include:

  • Frederick Municipal – $222,300
  • St. Mary’s Regional – $3,303,906
  • Ocean City Municipal – $556,324

 

Ehrlich’s Intercounty Connector

ehrlich-hogan-icc-1170x806
Govs. Bob Ehrlich and Larry Hogan. Photo courtesy the Governor’s Office.

Yesterday, Governor Larry Hogan announced the dedication of the Intercounty Connector (ICC) to former Governor Bob Ehrlich.

In his press release, the Governor states:

Over the decades, plans for the ICC started – and stalled – countless times, but it wasn’t until Governor Ehrlich made it a top priority that the Intercounty Connector Project was finally revived. The ICC was the very first all-electronic toll road in Maryland, and it is one of the most significant transportation projects in state history.

Governor Ehrlich thanks the Governor:

I would like to sincerely thank Governor Hogan for this wonderful dedication. Many Marylanders thought the ICC would never be built. It was certainly a difficult task, against all odds. But it got done through the hard work of professionals who contributed to the planning, financing, and construction of this magnificent road.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Hogan said the ICC was Ehrlich’s “signature achievement” for Maryland. He credited him with persuading then-President George W. Bush to have the federal government help pay for it and for persuading Democrats to build it. …

Ehrlich said he was humbled by the dedication, and it was strange to receive such an honor while still alive.

“It’s kind of weird,” he said, looking at the sign. “But it’s an honor.”

The ICC is Maryland’s first all-electronic toll road, with varying tolls depending on traffic conditions and time of day.

 

State Board Pares Cuts, Spares Counties

On Wednesday, the Board of Public Works (BPW) voted to approve budget cuts of approximately $63 million – but, the cuts did not include the Administration’s original proposal to eliminate $6,028,885 in disparity grant aid to certain counties.

The Maryland Department of Budget and Management originally proposed to level fund disparity grants at the fiscal 2017 level, resulting in cuts to Prince George’s ($4,245,462), Baltimore City ($946,445), Wicomico ($587,801), Cecil ($196,240), and Washington ($52,938). Those counties were to receive an increase in their disparity grant aid in fiscal 2018 per the statutory formula, but the General Assembly required those counties to provide those funds to their school systems above the required maintenance of effort (MOE) funding in fiscal 2018.

In response, MACo sent the members of the Board of Public Works a letter requesting them to vote against the proposal. The counties had already complied with the State’s requirement to provide extra funding to their school boards, anticipating receipt of the grant aid.

From MACo’s letter:

MACo does not regularly intervene in midyear funding issues before the Board of Public Works. In fact, in 2016, following a deep decline in State revenue forecasts, MACo did not directly object to the midyear cuts proposed and accepted – including a roughly analogous flat-funding of the disparity grant program. It is the specific circumstance of this proposed cut that moves our Association to raise this concern.

The State obliged counties receiving a disparity grant increase to direct these funds to education. The counties did so. To now rescind that very funding unfairly penalizes other county-funded priorities. Given the lack of an immediate fiscal crisis, MACo respectfully urges that you vote against this reduction to county disparity grants.

The Daily Record reports on the cuts:

Disparity grants to local governments totaling more than $6 million make up the bulk of the proposed cuts withdrawn from the original proposal.  …

Few details were provided as to why some of the cuts were rescinded.

The Maryland Association of Counties, which represents all 24 major jurisdictions, wrote to all three members of the Board of Public Works urging them to reject the proposed cuts to the disparity grant program.

MACo thanks the Governor and Board members for recognizing this difficulty, and adjusting plans accordingly.