The General Assembly ends soon. The confetti will fall at midnight on April 9th marking the end of another 90 day legislative session. Unfortunately Anne Arundel County will have little to celebrate.
Just a week ago, the state legislature struck down one of Anne Arundel County’s most beloved institutions. With arrogance and indifference common in Annapolis, the state legislature wiped out our twenty year property tax cap.
The 1992 voter imposed limitation on property taxes has allow the county to maintain one of the lowest property tax rates in the state; however, with the governor’s signature next week it will end. Budget and tax issues have dominated the last few weeks of session and have centered around four legislative bills: 1) SB 150 – budget, 2) SB 152 – budget reconciliation, 3) SB 523 – tax increases, and 4) SB 848 – school spending.
As minority leader, or “Ranking Member”, on the Appropriations Committee, I led the Republican effort to produce an alternative budget. Our budget simply level funded 2013 spending at 2012 levels, a very reasonable proposal. We proved that if we only spent next year what was spent this year, all of the proposed taxes and the “cram down” of expenses to the counties would NOT be necessary.
That alternative was ignored; instead we continued our march over the financial cliff by raising spending another $1 billion and again raising taxes. Still for all the “tax and spend” fervor, the most shocking measures are the “cram down” of expenses to the counties.
The state has found a new trick to deal with its addiction to spending and mounting structural deficits; instead of reducing expenses, it merely crams down billions of dollars of expenses on to the counties. The cram down allows our ambitious governor to crow about how much less money the state is spending while starting new sexy programs like windmills, and hi-tech slush funds to help politically connected businesses like Solyndra. Meanwhile counties are left holding the bag, and will take the heat for having to raise taxes for all their new found responsibilities.
After a century division of responsibility with counties paying teacher salaries and pension payments made by the state, the state unceremoniously dumped ( SB 152 ) the cost of teacher pensions on to counties. This first cram down will only be 50% of the cost ($240 million), but it will likely be 100% before long.
Also the state wants more spending on education, but rather than cutting spending elsewhere and appropriating the money to the schools, the state is simply passing a law (SB 848) which mandates that the counties must spend more or face huge penalties. Likewise, the state is shifting to the counties responsibility for new federal stormwater mangagement and other environmental regulations which will cost the counties many billions more.
The combination of these laws and other shifting of expenses this session will do real harm to Anne Arundel County. Our county is one of the hardest hit. not withstanding any provision of a county charter that places a limitNOTWITHSTANDING ANY PROVISION OF A COUNTY CHARTER 5 THAT PLACES A LIMIT ON THAT COUNTY’S PROPERTY TAX RATE OR REVENUES 6 AND SUBJECT TO PARAGRAPH (2) OF THIS SUBSECTION, A COUNTY GOVERNING 7 BODY MAY SET A PROPERTY TAX RATE THAT IS HIGHER THAN THE RATE 8 AUTHORIZED UNDER THE COUNTY’S CHARTER
These audits and others were released just recently and will prompt many heated discussions over the next three months. For more information on these topics or any other questions please contact my office 410-841-3406 or E-mail me at McConkey@Writeme.com.