U.S. House Transportation Chair on Infrastructure Funding: Get Shovels to the Ground, Fast

The U.S. House Transportation Committee Chair recently suggested that states that can move projects ahead quickly will have an advantage when it comes to benefiting from any federal infrastructure funds in the coming months.

According the the Route Fifty article,

If a major infrastructure package takes shape, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said a message for states would be: “you’ve got to get those dollars to shovels in the ground, fast.”

President Trump has called for a $1 trillion plan to direct public and private investment toward upgrading infrastructure assets around the U.S., such as roads, railways and airports.

Responding to a question about how to get money for new infrastructure investment distributed swiftly to help spur job growth—a priority for Trump—he replied: “Part of that mechanism we have to put in place is to reward states that are going to move very quickly.”

“We’ve got to get something done before next spring,” Shuster added, “whether it’s taxes, Obamacare, or health care reform, or infrastructure spending. Because the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate, they’re going to be on the line.”

Shuster said his hope is to have an infrastructure bill by this fall.

Prevailing Wages For TIFs Bill Dies In Committee

The House Economic Matters Committee has killed a bill which would have made it more difficult for counties to use tax increment financing (TIFs). HB 466 – Prevailing Wage – Tax Increment Financing Developments – Application would have required payment of prevailing wages on construction contracts receiving any funds from TIF bond proceeds.

Counties had concerns that the bill would drive up costs of public infrastructure projects, stifle use of a demonstrably successful economic development tool, and squeeze out small businesses from participating in infrastructure construction projects. In addition, it unfairly applies prevailing wage requirements to certain projects receiving TIF bond proceeds when those projects would not otherwise have to comply even if financed with other public funds.

MACo testified on the Senate crossfile, SB 870, on March 16 in the the Senate Finance Committee. From MACo’s testimony:

TIFs are a demonstrably successful economic development tool that enables counties to finance public infrastructure improvements using future property tax revenues associated with the new development. These are revenues which the county would not receive at all unless the development came to fruition. Creating a viable TIF district and development plan requires careful financial planning and forecasting to ensure that the future tax revenues received from the project more than cover expenditures on the infrastructure required to support that development. In general, counties will only use this tool if the development is not financially viable without the benefit of the TIF; in other words, if the numbers do not add up, the county does not issue the TIF bond, and the development never happens.

….This bill will significantly raise costs for development projects funded with TIF bonds. If costs are raised over and above what the development will return in future tax revenues, the county will not issue the TIF because it is not economically viable. This generally prevents the development from occurring, sacrificing blight elimination, job creation, targeted economic development, and growth to the taxable base.

 

Both Chambers Move To Streamline County Procurement Requirement

Both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly have passed SB 632/HB 118 – Election Law – Persons Doing Public Business – Reporting by Governmental Entities, a bill that simplifies a campaign finance/procurement law mandate on counties. MACo testified in support of the bill with Kathleen Boucher of Montgomery County’s Intergovernmental Relations Office on February 7 in the House Ways and Means Committee and again on February 23 in the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee. Both committee passed their respective bills with technical amendments.

The bill repeals the requirement that state and local procurement officials notify the State Board of Elections if awardees of contracts worth $200,000 or more fail to file requisite campaign finance disclosures with that State Board. Instead, it requires those government entities to provide the Board with a list of all individuals and entities receiving contracts worth $200,000 or more who are required to file the subject disclosures.

From MACo testimony:

The Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2013 sought to reduce the risk of “pay to play” activities influencing government contracting – and by streamlining enforcement procedures, this bill helps to further those goals. This bill removes the “middle man” from an enforcement role it is unable to effectively accomplish. Recipients of government contracts worth $200,000 or more are currently required to file statements of political contributions with the State Board. The provision of existing law addressed in this bill holds state and local procurement officers responsible for (1) requiring that the applicable contract awardees certify that they have made their requisite disclosure filings with the State Board, and (2) notifying the State Board if those awardees actually fail to make the requisite filings.

Regarding that latter requirement, procurement officers do not actually have the means to verify whether their contractors have filed the requisite disclosures with the State Board – the State Board has that information. Instead, this bill requires state and local government entities to file a list of applicable contract awardees with the State Board, returning enforcement obligations to the Board which is supposed to receive the campaign finance disclosures in the first place.

 

House on Unpaid Water Bills: No Liens For 1Yr, As We Study Tax Sales

The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Revenues (who has jurisdiction over tax collection processes such as tax sales) has advanced two bills targeting the collection of unpaid water bills. The two amended bills, as passed, would impose a moratorium on using tax sales to collect water and sewer liens, and would require a multi-party study of tax sale processes to be completed this year.

The two bills being moved are:
HB 453: Bill Information | MACo testimony
HB 659: Bill Information | MACo did not take a position

In previous Conduit Street coverage (“Should ‘Good Actors’ Subsidize Bad Actions?”), MACo had raised concerns with laws limiting collection of overdue fines and charges – citing unfairness to those who have made their timely payments:

Water systems are usually set up by governments as “enterprise funds,” meaning they cover their own costs. This “user pays” principle is widely embraced for similar public services.

But if the prospect of losing service… or the potential to see your property face tax sale… is off the table, surely compliance will drop. The state’s largest water system in Baltimore City estimates that without the lien process available they could face some $7 million in reduced payments, as non-payers would no longer be eventually compelled to cover their own share of system costs.

Both bills should be reported out from the full committee and on the House floor in the days ahead, likely passing to the Senate by the Monday “crossover” procedural deadline.

Queen Anne’s Earns AAA Bond Rating for the First Time Ever

For the first time in county history, Queen Anne’s County has earned a AAA bond rating from Fitch Ratings.

According to the press release,

Recently, the county’s Finance Director Jonathan Seeman, County Administrator Gregg Todd, and County Commissioner Stephen Wilson went to New York City to present their case for a higher bond rating to the two major rating firms Fitch and Moody’s.

The county went to the bond markets to finance $12.6 million in long-term capital debt such as the new Circuit Court House, school building improvements, and the purchase of heavy equipment, such as that used to clear the roads of snow.

“Fitch gave us AAA, but Moody’s kept us at Aa2, which is two steps below AAA. We’ll keep trying,” said Seeman. “You have to remember, that after the recession, only a few years ago, when we had no Rainy Day fund, we were rated AA+, but with a negative outlook, by both agencies. Getting the AAA is quite an accomplishment for the county.”

“Since then, we’ve shown that the county commissioners have restored the county to sound fiscal management, with stable revenue growth, above average reserves, and relatively low levels of debt. With this rating from Fitch, we’ve joined an elite group of AAA rated counties in Maryland as well as the State of Maryland government, that have this rating ,” Seeman said.

Congratulations to Queen Anne’s County!

MACo Supports Improving State Procurement System

MACo Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, provided written testimony in support of House Bill 390, “Improving the State Procurement Oversight Structure,” which implements recommendations made by the Commission to Modernize State Procurement, including those concerning restructuring and reorganizing the Procurement Advisory Council into the Procurement Improvement Council. Most relevant to MACo, the bill charges the new Council with coordinating with local entities to maximize use of intergovernmental purchasing.

The Commission to Modernize State Procurement, created by Governor Larry Hogan in February and chaired by Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, released its final Report last December including more than 200 pages and 57 recommendations for streamlining procurement efforts, expanding small and minority-owned business opportunities, promoting efficiency through automation and technology upgrades, and removing redundant and unnecessary procurement processes.

From MACo testimony:

MACo appreciates the extensive, hard work completed by the Commission to recommend nearly 60 improvements that allow the State to get the best deals, most efficiently, in the fairest and most transparent manner. MACo especially appreciates the Commission’s recommendations which also allow counties to reap benefits from improved coordination on procurement, including this recommendation to maximize cooperative purchasing arrangements.

Recommendations by the Commission of particular noteworthiness to local governments are available here.

The cross-file to the bill, Senate Bill 310, was heard by the Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committee on February 16, 2017. Find previous coverage of the bill on Conduit Street.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

MACo Supports Streamlining Store License Fees

MACo’s Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, testified in the House Economic Matters committee on February 28 in favor of HB 859, streamlining trader’s and chain store license fees with a flat fee. MACo suggested two amendments: one to make the fees equal in all counties, and one to help out small businesses which may see an increase in fees under the bill.

From MACo’s testimony:

MACo supports this bill, which streamlines a dated fee structure and relieves businesses of the requirement to undertake burdensome processes to determine applicability of the appropriate license fee.

While Baltimore City and Baltimore County have successfully updated their fee structures in recent years, most counties have not changed their trader’s fees to accommodate for inflation in several decades. As such, MACo respectfully requests that the Committee amend this bill to set one fee for all counties and municipalities, making the fee $325 in all jurisdictions. This further simplifies the bill and ensures that businesses are treated equally in all areas of the state.

Counties would support an additional amendment which sought to hold harmless small businesses which pay lower fees than $325 under existing law. Should a small business opt to conduct an inventory of its stock-in-trade to affirmatively prove that its fee should remain the same as it has been under existing law, counties would be willing to accept the lower fee in an effort to ensure that those smaller businesses did not have to shoulder the burden of paying higher fees as a result of the improvements made under this bill.

Save Money With the New Maintenance, Repair, and Operating Supplies Contract from U.S. Communities

New MRO Contract Provides Comprehensive Solutions Making It Easier Than Ever to Get the Supplies You Need at Competitive Prices

2016 US CommU.S. Communities recently announced a new national cooperative contract for maintenance, repair, operating supplies, industrial supplies and related products and services. This contract was awarded to The Home Depot, HD Supply Facilities Maintenance, Applied Industrial Technologies, and SupplyWorks, A Home Depot Company through a competitive solicitation process conducted by the lead public agency, Maricopa County, Arizona. The contract term is for five years with the option to renew for five additional one year periods. To learn more about this new contract and the solutions available, view details below or register for a complimentary one-hour webinar.

This contract makes it easier to get the products and services you need under one contract while saving time and money. This multi-award provides public agencies these options when looking for MRO solutions.

The Home Depot: Access to millions of products for maintenance, repair, and operations needs and capital improvements; available the same day at one of The Home Depot’s 1,960+ store locations.

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HD Supply: Competitively-awarded MRO products and property improvement services on a single contract.

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Webinar Dates:

MACo Supports Modernization of Procurement System

MACo Associate Director, Barbara Zektick, provided testimony in support of Senate Bill 310, “Improving the State Procurement Oversight Structure,” before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on February 16, 2017.

This bill implements recommendations made by the Commission to Modernize State Procurement, including those concerning restructuring and reorganizing the Procurement Advisory Council into the Procurement Improvement Council. Most relevant to MACo, the bill charges the new Council with coordinating with local entities to maximize use of intergovernmental purchasing.

The Commission to Modernize State Procurement, created by Governor Larry Hogan in February and chaired by Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, released its final Report last December including more than 200 pages and 57 recommendations for streamlining procurement efforts, expanding small and minority-owned business opportunities, promoting efficiency through automation and technology upgrades, and removing redundant and unnecessary procurement processes.

From MACo testimony:

MACo appreciates the extensive, hard work completed by the Commission to recommend nearly 60 improvements that allow the State to get the best deals, most efficiently, in the fairest and most transparent manner. MACo especially appreciates the Commission’s recommendations which also allow counties to reap benefits from improved coordination on procurement, including this recommendation to maximize cooperative purchasing arrangements.

Recommendations by the Commission of particular noteworthiness to local governments are available here.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2017 legislative session here.

Want to Get More from Your Investments? Free Webinar from Multi-Bank Securities – February 23

It’s easy to have more control. eConnectDirect is about finding the best bond for you, not just the “bond of the day”.

The Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) and Multi-Bank Securities, Inc. (MBS) present a free webinar on Feb. 23 at 3pm EST to showcase the features of eConnectDirect, a proprietary online investment platform designed to give you more confidence and more control over your investment decisions.

econnectdirectMACo is pleased to have endorsed eConnect Direct as an essential online investment solution designed to help Maryland county treasurers manage their investment needs. This proprietary tool, developed by MBS, provides treasurers with more visibility to thousands of fixed-income offerings and the ability to invest county funds in a more effective and transparent way.

Who should attend the webinar to learn more about this free tool? 

This webinar is open to any local government treasurers and officers with investment responsibility including:

  • Finance Directors
  • Treasurers
  • Investment Officers
  • Comptrollers
  • Deputy Treasurers & Staff
  • Investment Committee Members

We are delighted to host a webinar for treasurers to learn more about eConnectDirect. This 30 minute session will show you firsthand how to easily and efficiently find yield and opportunity across various suitable investments, including U.S. agencies and U.S. Treasuries. Register today to see all that this unique tool has to offer.