In Committee: Casino Revenue and Tax Sales

Ways and Means Briefings, Thursday Jan.18

  • The Ways and Means Committee received a briefing by the Maryland State Lottery & Gaming Control Agency. Director Gordon Medenica  announced their projection of $1.63 billion in gaming revenue for FY18, and of that, $661 million would go to the state. In FY17, 31.8% of casino revenue went to the Education Trust Fund, second in percentage only to the money kept by the casinos. With this amount of revenue in addition to general fund expenditures on education, all public schools and especially those in Baltimore City and Allegany, Wicomico, Somerset, and Caroline Counties could do a lot to make a downpayment on the structural school funding gap created by nearly a decade of inadequate state funding if we stopped the practice of using that gaming revenue as a reason to diminish the contribution to education that comes from the state’s General Fund. As promised, Delegate Washington has “dropped” a bill she calls “Restoring the Trust in the Education Trust Fund,” that requires the funds allocated to the Education Trust Fund will be in addition to General Fund expenditures required by the current state formula.
  • Also on Jan. 18, the Ways &  Means Committee received a briefing from the Task Force to Study Tax Sales. Recommendations included additional tools to ensure the productive use of vacant and abandoned properties, and more consumer protections. Last session, Delegate Washington issued an amendment to the bill that required this task force look at water bills and the tax lien for them separately. In response, the task force also issued recommendations for water bills, including:
    1. Water affordability programs to help homeowners who struggle to pay their water bills
    2. Encourage jurisdictions and water and sewer systems to have payment plans
    3. Require landlords show a copy of water bills to their tenants upon request if the tenant is paying for water separately from rent
    4. Create “round up” policies so rate-payers can round up their payment, the remainder of which would go into a fund to help others pay water bills

The task force will be developing legislation to address these issues and Delegate Washington will keep you updated on it. She will also continue her work to ensure Baltimore City water rate- payers are treated fairly and will seek to permanently end the practice of tax sales of homes due to unpaid water bills.