Greetings from Annapolis!

It’s the 34th day of the 90-day Legislative Session and the hallways are buzzing in the House of Delegates. In this week’s newsletter, I will discuss the State of the Judiciary Address, examine how revenue is projected and generated in Maryland, describe five additional bills I filed for the 2015 session and provide community resources for the current tax season.

State of the Judiciary Address

In Maryland, the highest court in the state is the Court of Appeals of Maryland. Referenced quite often as the state Supreme Court in states such as Virginia and Pennsylvania, the Court of Appeals of Maryland hears cases concerning the death penalty, legislative redistricting, removal of certain officers, and certifications of questions of law.

On February 11th, the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, Mary Ellen Barbera, gave the first State of the Judiciary Address since 2005 to a joint session of the Maryland General Assembly in the House of Delegates Chamber at the Maryland State House.

A Baltimore native, Chief Judge Barbera (the first female chief judge in Maryland) gave an outline of the initiatives she intends to address:

  • access to justice and self help centers
  • improving justice for our most vulnerable populations
  • assisting our aging Marylanders.

If you would like to read the State of the Judiciary Address transcript, please visit:

http://mdcourts.gov/coappeals/speeches/soj2015.pdf

Budget Spotlight: Revenue

As part of our ongoing conversation about Governor Hogan’s budget proposals for FY2016, and in general, the process of creating a balanced budget for Maryland (as the Maryland Constitution requires us to do), this week I would like to discuss the revenue side. The state budget is based on what is called projected revenue in Maryland, and so this week, I would like to discuss how revenue is projected in Maryland and how revenue is used in developing the budget.

First, what is revenue?

Revenue is the main income for the state, used to fund public expenditures and other items (essential services and programs) that we deem essential for Maryland. Essential services are K-12 public schools for children, higher education for young adults, healthcare funding for the elderly and developmentally disabled, construction and upkeep for roads and bridges, and public transit like the MARC or light rail.

How is revenue generated in Maryland?

Maryland brings in approximately $39 billion in revenue from major taxes, licenses and fees (including income taxes, sales taxes, special funds like Transportation, State lottery, and other sources). Almost 46% of the revenues come from state tax revenues (like the ones listed above), with the remaining revenues deriving from nontax sources, like fees, licenses and federal grants.

Below are the major revenue sources in the state from the highest amount to lowest:

  • Individual and Corporate Income Taxes
  • Sales and Use Taxes
  • Transportation Taxes
  • Lottery
  • Other Revenues

Click here to read more about each type of revenue source

Projected Revenue

Projected Revenue refers to the estimated funds Maryland expects to generate during a specific period. The projections are based on accounting periods in September, December and March of each fiscal year. Maryland’s fiscal year runs from July 1-June 30, so FY 16 refers to July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016. The Governor bases his budget proposal for the next fiscal year from preliminary estimates created in September of the preceding fiscal year.

Does projected revenue impact the budget?

Yes. In December, if revenues are exceedingly less than they are projected to be in September, the Governor will write down expenses to meet budget revenues.

What are write downs

Write down describes reducing expenses and making adjustments to close any budget shortfall either in the current or next fiscal year. Amendments are made through the supplemental budget in December.

How does Maryland fare?

Revenues are down in Maryland and we are still recovering from the recession. In comparison to other states, Maryland has been successful in withstanding the slumping economy and has shown slight growth; however, it has not been enough to meet the state’s economic needs. The slow job market and the rise of low wage, temporary contract work has negatively impacted the state’s revenues. Next week’s Washington Report will go into more detail on the relationship between estimated revenues and our current budget outlook.

Baltimore Regional Revitalization Work Group

I was re-appointed by House Speaker Michael Busch to serve on the Baltimore Regional Revitalization Work Group and this year’s first meeting was held on February 9th. This special workgroup was created by Speaker Busch in 2013 to study the regional strengths and opportunities in the Baltimore region and make recommendations to revitalize the Greater Baltimore metropolitan area.

The Regional Revitalization Work Group is comprised of delegates from Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. My colleagues and I will examine ways to strengthen the Greater Baltimore metropolitan area by reviewing existing State programs such as community revitalization, education and transportation strategies, identifying ways to foster better partnerships between the State and local governments, and recruiting academic and private sector expertise to recommend innovative regional strategies.

I am excited for the opportunity to continue to serve on this work group and contribute ideas to attract residents back to the Greater Baltimore metropolitan region.

My Bills for 2015 Legislative Session

Below are the formal names, bill numbers and detailed descriptions for five of my bills, as well as links to the official bills for more information:

HB439: Information and Services for Foster Children and Former Foster Children

Committee: Judiciary

Committee Hearing Date: February 19th, 1pm

http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2015RS/bills/hb/hb0439F.pdf

In Maryland, 635 foster care youth transitioned out of the foster care system to live on their own last year. Additionally studies have shown that 1 out of 3 foster care youth who age out of the system at 18 will experience homelessness. I believe this must change. Youth experiencing homelessness are exposed to significant trauma. They are at disproportionate risk of mental, physical, and behavioral health problem; unemployment; crime victimization; sexual exploitation; unplanned pregnancy; and delinquency.

Quite often, foster care youth leave care without the skills, resources, and social connections necessary to successfully navigate the transition to independent adulthood, particularly without access to affordable housing or adequate income.

HB439 aims to provide solutions in preventing homelessness in foster care youth and proposes the following when they leave the system:

  1. Ensure that before youth between the ages of 18 and 21 transition out of foster care they have health insurance that will continue post-emancipation, have been screened for eligibility and assisted with applications for public benefits, and have stable housing and sufficient income to live independently;
  2. Require local departments of social services to educate current foster youth and former foster youth experiencing homelessness about the right to and procedure for reentering care;
  3. Ensure that at emancipation from foster care every foster youth has a driver’s license or state-issued identification card, health insurance information, medical records, birth certificate, and Social Security card; and
  4. Require local departments of social services to create plans for promoting and providing affordable housing and employment opportunities for former foster youth.

HB420: Commission on Rental Housing

Committee: Environment and Transportation

Committee Hearing Date: February 24th, 1pm

http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2015RS/bills/hb/hb0420F.pdf

Many states have housing programs that emphasize homelessness prevention and affordable low-income housing. I believe Maryland should explore what some solutions could be regarding rental housing to address the overwhelming need for affordable housing in the state.

HB420 establishes a commission to study rental housing in the state of Maryland.

HB297: Unaccompanied Homeless Youth – Tuition Exemption (Modification)

Committee: Ways and Means

Committee Hearing Date: March 5th, 1pm

http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2015RS/bills/hb/hb0297F.pdf

HB297 is a modification of HB482: Unaccompanied Homeless Youth – Tuition Exemption http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2014RS/bills/hb/hb0482T.pdf that passed during the 2014 Legislative Session. This year, my proposed amendments to HB482 include defining an unaccompanied homeless youth by requiring a determination of homelessness by specified individuals or documentation and requiring a financial aid administrator to annually certify the youth’s homelessness.

HB893: Electric Companies – Customers – Security Deposits

Committee: Economic Matters

Committee Hearing Date: March 12th, 1pm

http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2015RS/bills/hb/hb0893F.pdf

Many Marylanders are finding it more difficult to manage their household utility costs during a time where jobs have transitioned from high wage, standard payroll positions to low wage, temporary/contract work.

Presently, if an electric company customer is late paying their bill and is scheduled to have their services suspended, the utility provider will require a security deposit before services are restored in addition to the past due bill. Needless to say, this policy causes stress on the finances of already struggling families.

HB893 requires the utilities to post an easy-to-find and clearly articulated notice to existing customers about the possibility of being required to pay a deposit on all customer guidance about bill payment, on all paper bills, on the company web site, on online customer utility bill. The company must also warn customers at least 30 days before a deposit is imposed and provide a clear explanation of how to avoid imposition of the deposit. After the 30-day warning, the company must allow customers to negotiate payment arrangements or enter into an energy assistance program in order to avoid imposition of the deposit (in other words, allow customers a chance to get back on track even after the deposit technically could be in effect) via payment of arrears or creation of a payment arrangement.

HB693: Cottage Food Businesses – Revisions 

Committee: Health and Government Operations

Committee Hearing Date: To be determined

http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2015RS/bills/hb/hb0693F.pdf

Cottage food business owners sell baked and non-baked goods prepared from their homes to local farmers markets and public events. Compared to other states, Maryland’s cottage food business law is one of the most restrictive in the country by limiting the types of foods sold, the locations where it can be sold, and how much revenue the business can make. My bill will strengthen and expand the existing law and allow cottage food businesses a chance to thrive in the following ways:

  1. Extend the annual amount of revenue a cottage food business is allowed to make from $25,000 to $40,000.
  2. Expand the number of venues legally possible for selling cottage food business products.
  3. Create a statewide standard and licensing procedure for cottage food businesses that could be used in other jurisdictions.

Opportunities and Community Engagement

Invited Appearance: Comcast’s Newsmakers

Last week I was invited to speak on Comcast’s television segment Newsmakers. I discussed my views on Governor Hogan’s budget cuts to education and its impact to Baltimore City teachers and students. I also shared my ideas on local revitalization efforts, job creation and a brief synopsis of my bill on the cottage food industry.

Watch my interview!

http://comcastnewsmakers.com/2015/02/09/delegate-mary-washington-district-43/

Tax Filing Resources for Homeowners and Renters

Tax season is here and many Marylanders fall victim to predatory tax preparation companies who promise same-day cash refunds. Think twice! There are certified and trained tax preparation professionals who will prepare and file your taxes for free throughout Baltimore City. Do not allow companies who charge excessive fees to take advantage of you.

Below are links to locate free tax preparation services in your community:

For taxpayers 60 and older with low to moderate income:

The following are tax credits offered by the state for homeowners and renters. Please view the list to see if you qualify:

  • The Homeowner’s Property Tax Credit
  • Veterans Property Tax Exemption
  • Partial Tax Exemption for Blind Persons
  • Renters Tax Credit

43rd District Legislative Night in Annapolis

I would like to thank everyone who came to 43rd District Legislative Night in Annapolis on February 9th. The 43rd District Legislative Team: Senator Joan Carter Conway, Delegates Curt Anderson, Maggie McIntosh and myself, were thrilled that so many were able to attend on such a cold evening.

It was an honor to meet constituents who were concerned about the effects of Governor Hogan’s budget cuts and are determined to work with us in finding solutions. A special thanks to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and members of the Baltimore Education Coalition (BEC) for attending, as well as the Northwood Elementary School Gospel Choir for showcasing their amazing voices two years in a row.

Keep in Touch

I will continue to do my best to provide detailed updates and alerts via email and other meetings, and you can follow my daily activities and breaking news by liking my Facebook fan page facebook.com/delmarywashington43 or following me at twitter.com/DelMaryW.

In addition, I encourage you to contact me with the issues that matter most to you at mary.washington@house.state.md.us or call the Annapolis office at (410) 841-3476.

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

In partnership,

Delegate Mary Washington