Report: ACA Repeal Could Cost State Billions

The Maryland Department of Legislative Services (DLS) released a report assessing the impacts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Maryland. The report also includes an overview of the potential effects of plans to repeal or replace the act.

As reported in The Baltimore Business Journal:

The DLS report notes that considering the results of the most recent presidential and Congressional elections, “substantial revision or repeal of the ACA is anticipated.” Given that, legislators detailed some of the possible financial and policy impacts for Maryland.

Here are some of the potential effects of repeal/replace plans:

  • If enhanced federal funding is repealed, Maryland must decide whether to maintain and how to fund Medicaid expansion. The net cost to Maryland would be $1.27 billion in fiscal 2018, rising to $1.50 billion in fiscal 2022.
  • Loss of an enhanced matching rate for the Maryland Children’s Health Program would increase general fund spending by an estimated $68.0 million in fiscal 2018, $72.8 million in fiscal 2019, and $19.5 million in fiscal 2020.
  • The state will need to decide whether to continue the state’s health exchange and how to continue funding it. State law mandates an annual appropriation of at least $35 million to support the exchange.
  • Repeal of the ACA could impact Maryland’s all-payer model, which governs hospital rate setting. Maryland could eventually lose the model contract — a kind of pilot program for the state — putting in jeopardy $2.3 billion in Medicare and Medicaid payments to state hospitals per year.

For more information read The Baltimore Business Journal and the DLS report “Assessing the Impact of Health Care Reform in Maryland“.

Calvert County Sees Boost in Tourism

According to a recent report by the Maryland Office of Tourism Development, Calvert County saw an increase in tourist in 2015.

As reported by Calvert County:

A study on the impact of tourism, released in December by the Maryland Office of Tourism Development, shows a whopping 8.8 percent increase in visitors to the county in 2015. In addition, Calvert County tourism industry sales grew by 8 percent to nearly $147 million, while tourism employment, labor income and tax receipts all posted gains.

Nearly 1,300 people are directly employed through the Calvert County tourism sector, representing $38 million in labor income. Tourism tax receipts in 2015 – including federal, state, local and hotel taxes – totaled $37.7 million, an increase of nearly 8.3 percent over 2014.

Visit the Calvert County website for more information.

Cecil Secures Deal for Amazon Distribution Center

A new 1.2 million-square-foot Amazon distribution center is coming to Cecil County and anticipated to create 700 jobs.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Akash Chauhan, Amazon’s vice president of North America operations, said the state-of-the-art warehouse just off Interstate 95 in North East would create hundreds of full-time jobs that pay wages 30 percent higher than traditional retail stores and include benefits, bonuses and stock awards.

“Maryland has an incredible workforce,” Chauhan said in the announcement.

The Cecil County Council unanimously voted 4-0 Tuesday night to approve a resolution endorsing a state loan of up to $1.2 million for a tenant identified in the proposal as “Project Iron.” Council President Joyce Bowlesby was out of town.

The Commerce Department has agreed to make the loan from the Maryland Economic Development Assistance and Authority Fund, the resolution says. Cecil County, which was required to approve the state loan, will contribute a separate $120,000 conditional loan over a period of not more than 10 years.

Amazon will invest $90 million to build the facility, which is expected to employ 700 people by Dec. 31, 2020.

For more information read The Baltimore Sun


Bilal Ali Tapped to Become Baltimore City’s Newest Delegate

Bilal Ali, a community liaison in the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office, was selected Wednesday to become Baltimore’s newest state delegate — part of a series of recent changes to the city’s delegation triggered by the election of Mayor Catherine Pugh and the retirement of state Senator Lisa Gladden.

As reported by The Baltimore Sun,

Ali, an event promoter who sits on the Democratic Central Committee that made the selection, beat fellow committee member Joyce Smith in a 5-1 vote. Ali and Smith both voted for themselves.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is required to appoint a nominee recommended by the committee.

“I’m ready to hit the ground running,” said Ali, who works for State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby. “We have a lot of pertinent issues in the 41st District: crime and public safety, education and economic development. … We already have some preliminary legislation we’re working on. I’m very excited.”

Eleven candidates applied to replace Jill P. Carter as a state delegate in the 41st District in Northwest Baltimore. Carter joined the Pugh administration this month as director of the Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement.

Ali defeated Smith, Sean Stinnett, Nii Sowah, Nachum “Nathan” Miller, the Rev. Steven Turner, Dayvon Love, Carrie Evans, Ellie Mitchell, Anthony White and Dr. Sharon Gorenstein.

Read the full article for more information.

Budget, First Look: Counties To Fund Most Of SDAT; Most Formulas Capped

Today Governor Hogan released his fiscal 2018 budget and accompanying Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2017, boasting that it “responsibly holds the line on spending without raising taxes, cutting services, or raiding special funds.” FY 2018 operating budget expenditures total $17.1 billion; the total budget is $43.6 billion, a 2 percent increase over fiscal 2017. Thus far, MACo has gleaned the following information from the provided materials, but will continue to provide updated coverage as we gather more information and analyze the impacts more fully.

Most notably, the budget makes counties responsible for nearly all operating costs for the assessment and directorial functions of the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) – 70 percent in fiscal 2018, and 90 percent for every year thereafter.

Additionally, all county (and other) aid requirements, except those for education, are capped at one percent less than projected General Fund growth. 

Among county effects — some areas are fully funded:

  • The budget fully funds K-12 education according to law, at $6.4 billion. Community colleges are also fully funded at $256 million.
  • $53 million is included in capital grants to counties and municipalities for transportation aid, above the formulaic appropriation of highway user revenues. This includes $5.5 million to Baltimore City and $27.4 million to counties, distributed according to the same formula used to distribute highway user revenues, based on road mileage and vehicle registrations. This in effect increases the highway user split by 0.3 percent for Baltimore City and 1.5 percent for all other counties.

…some areas are “flat funded” at the same level, reduced from formula-driven increases:

  • Local health departments and police aid to counties from the Police Protection Fund are flat-funded from fiscal 2017.
  • Disparity grants are flat-funded as of the November 2, 2016 Department of Public Works meeting, when the State passed midyear cuts to the program ( a reduction of about $8.4 million to affected counties).

…and in one area, major new costs are being shifted to counties– specifically, SDAT’s operating costs:

  • For fiscal 2018, counties pay for 70 percent, rather than the existing share of 50 percent, for certain SDAT functions, including the costs of real property valuation, business personal property valuation, and information technology costs.
  • For fiscal 2018, counties also pay 70 percent of costs for the SDAT Office of the Director (an function where there had not been any county share previously).
  • Beginning in fiscal 2019 and thereafter, counties pay 90 percent of the above-mentioned costs to operate SDAT.
  • Nothing in the legislation provides county governments any say in the management or oversight of these state functions – counties merely are invoiced for the costs.

Finally, as part of what the Governor has termed the “Common Sense Spending Act of 2017,”  funding increases for all programs (other than specific K-12 education programs, Rainy Day Fund deposits and debt service payments) are capped as follows beginning in fiscal 2019 and forever after:

…any appropriation that is mandated by law shall have its mandated level of spending increased by the lesser of:

(1) the amount of the existing formula calculation; or

(2) an amount equal to 1% less than the reported amount of General Fund revenue growth in the report submitted by the Board of Revenue Estimates to the Governor under § 6–106(b) of the State Finance and Procurement Article for December.

In other words, no statutorily-required state funding — including many programs supporting counties (other than for education) — would ever increase beyond projected General Fund growth minus 1 percent, regardless of what the formula in law currently dictates.

Tensions High As Howard Debates “Sanctuary” Law

Hundreds of residents turned out for a passionate and emotional public hearing on Tuesday night, as the Howard County Council weighed a pending “Sanctuary” bill, framing the county and law enforcement posture regarding undocumented residents.

From coverage in the Baltimore Sun’s “Howard County Times” section:

County Council Chairman Jon Weinstein frequently interrupted testimony to call on the audience to refrain from applause, laughter and overall discord. Back and forth between two council members prompted Weinstein to call for a 10-minute recess in the more than seven-hour-long meeting.

The debate veered between two extremes: opponents said the bill invites undocumented residents to Howard County at the expense of possibly stripping federal funding, while supporters said the bill was a principled stand on behalf of undocumented immigrants in a county that champions and celebrated diversity.

The bill is set for a vote in early February, but faces opposition from the County Executive:

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman pledged to veto the measure if it crosses his desk, citing the bill as political grandstanding that threatens critical federal funding and provides a false sense of security to undocumented residents.

New Staffing Services & Solutions Through U.S. Communities

2016 US CommU.S. Communities is excited to announce the dual award for staffing services and solutions with Acro Service Corporation and Knowledge Services.

From the announcement:

The contract term is for three years with the option to extend the contract for six additional periods of one year each. This contract provides solutions for agencies to save on staffing services, but also on managed service provider solutions and services such as recruitment, payroll and temp-to-hire services. To learn more about each contract and the solutions available, register for a complimentary 30-minute webinar.

Acro Service Corporation provides temporary staffing services across a wide range of job categories at predetermined prices, and then streamlines managing multiple temporary staffing providers in a single point of contact through its Managed Service Provider (MSP) program. MSP services are typically only possible for large organizations, but Acro is offering this service for all U.S. Communities participants, no matter how small. Acro is also a diversity supplier and fills positions with talent in your local community.

Knowledge Services takes on the primary responsibilities for managing an agency’s workforce and temporary staffing process, vendors, and contractors. Knowledge Services provides a vendor-neutral solution which ensures all staffing partners receive the same requisitions simultaneously. The U.S.-based Knowledge Services MSP/VMS services allow public entities access to high-quality talent at the most competitive pricing in the industry. Knowledge Services understands the needs of public sector clients, embraces small/minority business initiatives and provides funding source reporting, among many other benefits.

To learn more about this contract with Acro and Knowledge Services, register for the webinars. If you are unable to attend one of the webinar dates, contact U.S. Communities for additional information.

Webinar Dates:

Harford Community College approves $3 per Credit Hour Tuition Increase for 2018

Harford County Community College tuition is proposed to go up by 2.4 percent beginning in July, but college officials hope to be able to cap the increase at 2 percent, just as Gov. Larry Hogan is proposing for four-year state colleges.

“If the state adds more money than anticipated, I would hope to hold tuition to the 2 percent [Hogan] is holding four-year colleges to,” HCC Board of Trustees Chairman Richard Norling said during the college board’s Jan. 10 meeting, where the latest tuition increase and next year’s budget were approved.

“The 16 community colleges in Maryland educate half the freshmen and sophomores in the state, about 500,000 students,” Norling said.

As reported by The Baltimore Sun,

The cap proposed by Hogan does not apply to Maryland’s 16 community colleges, Norling said, and it still must be approved by the Maryland General Assembly. Hogan proposed a similar cap last year.

State funding for HCC next year is expected to be flat again, Norling said, as it was this year, but if it turns out to be more, he said he would like to see that amount applied to a lesser tuition increase. Or he’d like the cap to apply to two-year colleges, as well.

The $3 per credit hour tuition proposed for next year was approved 8-0 by the trustees. as part of the college’s proposed $48.9 million budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1 and must be submitted to Harford County Executive Barry Glassman for his review. Trustee John Haggerty was not at the meeting.

Tuition is to proposed to increase by $5 for students who live outside of Harford and by $7 for out-of-state students.

HCC’s current tuition rates are $124 per credit hour for county residents, $211 for non-Harford residents of Maryland and $298 for non-residents of Maryland. Students also pay a consolidated service fee of $24.80 per credit hour, according to the HCC website.

If next year’s tuition increases were to be capped at 2 percent, the in-county tuition would increase approximately $2.48 a credit hour, instead of $3.

Read the full article for more information.

Del. Hixson Steps Down As Chairwoman of Ways & Means

Del. Sheila Hixson announced Tuesday that she’s giving up her position as chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

Del. Anne Kaiser, also a Montgomery County Democrat, will take over as chairwoman. Del. William Frick, another Montgomery County Democrat, will replace Kaiser as majority leader.

Hixson, a Montgomery County Democrat, will assume the title of “chairman emeritus.” She had chaired the committee — which reviews legislation on education, elections, gambling, taxes and more — since 1993.

In a statement, Hixson said she would “help transition and mentor” her replacement.

Hixson, 83, said she plans to continue to push in her 41st legislative session for “a progressive agenda that supports working families, equal treatment for women in the workplace and at home, equal rights for gay and lesbian Marylanders, a fair tax system that enables everyone to make ends meet, and support for a strong education system in Maryland.”

Read the full article for more information.

Gov. Hogan: Proposed $17.1B Budget Will Curtail Future Spending

Governor Larry Hogan proposed a $17.1 billion budget Tuesday that he says is balanced, reins in spending and provides full funding for education.

In a news conference at the State House, the governor outlined broad details of the budget that will be released Wednesday.

According to The Baltimore Business Journal,

Repeating comments he made last week at a General Assembly kickoff event, Hogan said investment into the state’s Rainy Day fund will help make up for lower-than-expected revenue.

“Because of the fiscal restraint we have instituted over the past two years, while many other states are facing crippling budget shortfalls, we are in much, much better shape than we would have been,” Hogan said.

Funding formulas enacted by the legislature in the past are accounting for a $519 million increase in mandated spending, the Republican governor said. Despite that, he said his budget provides a record $6.4 billion for education without increasing taxes, including $334 for school construction. Total spending will be down from last year.

The administration’s capital budget limits borrowing to $995 million, which Hogan said will be necessary to keep the state’s debt service payments from rising out of control. Next year, he said, the state will be forced to spend more on debt service payments than on school construction.

Read the full article for more information.