Tag: budget

SRB Proposes Lowering Property Taxes, Charging for Trash Removal

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Who would want to be the mayor of Baltimore right now? We’ve got 16,000 vacant properties and an ever-shrinking tax base, and we’re looking at “financial ruin” within  10 years if we don’t start closing our budget gaps.

That sounds simple enough — raise taxes or cut spending or do both. But our tax rates already tower above those of surrounding areas, so there isn’t much farther to go. And what kind of programs can we cut that won’t make the city a less desirable place to live and aggravate our shrinking population problem?

Anne Arundel County Reneges on $229K in Employee Pensions

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Let’s say you were retired from the Anne Arundel state’s attorney’s office, and then were offered the opportunity to go back working for the state’s attorney part-time while continuing to collect 100 percent of your pension. And let’s say five years later the county realizes it made a mistake, has been in fact overpaying you, and sends you a bill for $115,672.50.

Counties Protest Aid Cuts, Increased Pension Costs from O’Malley Administration

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Our ambitious governor may be warmly received among Democratic voters in Iowa, but he’s about to feel some less-than-friendly pushback from counties in his home state.

Baltimore City Council President Steps In to Save Mayor’s Improbable Goal

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You may have been wondering how the mayor’s ambitious (maybe even quixotic) goal of attracting 10,000 families to Baltimore over the next decade squares with the looming closings of fire companies and recreational centers.

Well, City Council President Jack Young has a plan. His “Plan for a Better Baltimore” would reverse cuts to rec centers as the fire department, as well as other city services. In fact he wants to increase funds for education and youth programs. All he needs is several million dollars.

He thinks he can $17 million by scraping it from city agencies and eliminating vacant positions. He expects another $3.5 million from the new speed cameras beyond what the city has predicted.

So as long as enough of us drive at unsafe speeds past those new speed cameras Baltimore may become a more attractive place to live. Come on, people. Rev those engines — your city needs you!

The Never-Ending Tax Debate Rages on in Annapolis

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The tax proposal expected to be taken up by the General Assembly in their special session today would generate $247 million in revenue to stave off the “doomsday” budget which would otherwise take effect. It would do so by raising state taxes on high-income earners. According to The Baltimore Sun, the tax hike will amount to an extra $254 in taxes for families earning over $175,000, and an extra $3,269 for those earning over $1.1 million.

Unsurprisingly, this potential tax increase is a catalyst for outrage, as well as outrage at that outrage. Some are saying that the rich shouldn’t be afraid to shoulder a little extra tax burden to preserve education and vital services in these difficult times; others say this tax increase would only be the latest of several that will eventually push the affluent individuals and business out of Maryland. I’ll let you guess who’s who.

Now, it would be hard to convince me that $1.1 million in gross income isn’t plenty of money (that .1 alone is worth $100,000!), even after you apply the hefty taxes you’d be paying if your accountant couldn’t come up with ways to avoid them. But whatever side of this issue you land on – and however righteous you feel in your opinion – it’s hard not to feel at times that you are merely reciting lines for some awful play with no resolution.

This is the weird, boring, endless debate that defines American society. It makes me long for one day in the future when our technology has advanced sufficiently to allow the point to be argued exclusively by robots. We could program them to never allow either side a total ideological victory; taxes and spending would just bob up and down in a predictable decades-long cycle. And we humans would be able to put all our energy toward deciding when a girl is old enough to wear make-up, if it’s irresponsible to walk a dog off-leash, and if Christmas lights should rightly be white or multi-colored.

Baltimore Could Lose Permanently Three Fire Companies

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In the face of a $48 million budget shortfall, Baltimore may close permanently three city fire companies, Truck 10, Squad 11, and Truck 15, as proposed by Fire Chief James Clack. For two years now, the city has been carrying out rotating closures of three companies, in the hopes that the local economy would pick up before having to make any of the closures permanent.

Under the proposal, the firefighters of the closed companies would not lose their jobs, but would be shuffled around the city among the remaining 52 companies.

Even if the closings are necessary, and even if they present no increased risk to public safety (as Clack assures us), you know things are bad when you are making permanent cuts to such basic services.

And it’s particularly heartbreaking when excellence and heroism can’t overcome a budgetary reality. Rick Hoffman, president of the firefighters’ union, says that Truck 10 leads the city in department commendations for heroic actions, and just yesterday, the company was instrumental in rescuing three children who lay unconscious in a burning building.

Hoffman credited their experience and skill with the saving of the children. The union president told The Baltimore Sun, “What’s very important on these low-rise fires is knowing the way the buildings are set up. The way these guys know these places played a major part in saving these children.”

Maryland’s Budget Problem, Beyond the Talking Points

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If you’ve been following Maryland’s budget issue, you’ll know that Democrats are warning of a budget plan with hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to things like education, law enforcement, libraries,  and state employees that is set to take effect unless the General Assembly passes a tax package in a special session, while Republicans argue that the so called “doomsday budget” actual represents a spending increase of $700 million.

At least one of them is lying, right? Or else maliciously distorting the truth. I mean, we’re talking about some pretty contradictory arithmetic, here. And with little to no explanation beyond these simple claims, what we get is not so much an argument as a partisan shouting match.

Now, I’ve got at least one thing in common with Mike Daisey, Glenn Beck, Crystal Cox, and this other guy: I’m not a journalist. So it was with great indignation as a citizen-blogger being forced to actually contact someone for a comment that I wrote to the Maryland Department of Budget and Management and asked them how Democrats could see hundreds of millions in cuts where Republicans see hundreds of millions in additional spending.

O’Malley Plays Down 2016 Plans, Talks about “Silly Bomb”

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Gov. Martin O’Malley held a press briefing on Friday ostensibly to talk about his prospects as the Democratic candidate for president in 2016, but more time was spent discussing the dysfunction within the Deomcratic party that left Maryland with half a budget plan at the end of the legislative session.

O’Malley blamed the budget fail on the “silly bomb”  — a gaming bill — that Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller backed, and which sidetracked the General Assembly.

“There’s this silly bomb that sometimes gets unleashed in the Maryland General Assembly, and when you throw the silly bomb in among the Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly, everyone starts acting silly,” O’Malley said. That’s good; I think I could explain that to my niece.

As for 2016, O’Malley said he wasn’t thinking about it. Instead he was focusing on what needed to be done right now for Maryland.

But of course, as hard as it is to take politicians seriously in general, it’s harder when they may have presidential ambitions. I mean, isn’t “I’m focused on doing what I need to do to get my legislature back on track” exactly what you would say if you were gunning for the White House in four years? No one says, “You bet I’m thinking about it — I stay up at night imagining myself as president. I need to be president, bad, for deeply personal reasons.”

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