Council President Ervin’s #1 Priority: Balancing the Budget

Posted Date: 
January 10, 2011

County Council President Valerie Ervin met with MCCC’s Legislative Affairs Committee this morning for the first time since being elected by her peers to lead the Council this year. She addressed how the county and the state are both facing massive structural budget deficits, this year and beyond, and how both fiscal situations are intertwined in various debates over what government services might be cut or what tax and fee increases could be on the table. In a wide-ranging dialogue with the committee – headed by MCCC Legislative Affairs Vice-Chair Tom McElroy of Hughes Network Systems and Co-Chair Josh Bokee of Comcast – Ervin discussed issues such as a possible shift in teacher pension costs from the state to the counties, and a possible increase in the state gasoline tax.

She said she recently sponsored and the Council unanimously passed her legislation that strengthens the county’s collective bargaining posture, from a budget standpoint, if contract negotiations go to arbitration. Ervin also noted that she is calling for changes to the State’s maintenance of effort law on school funding, which has severely hamstrung the county budget in recent years. “If we can’t fix Maintenance of Effort, everything else gets squeezed,” she said, noting that the school system’s portion of the overall, $4 billion-plus county budget has risen to approximately 58 percent.

Highlighting a recent report prepared for the County Council by its Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) on the primary factors driving the county’s structural budget deficit, Ervin emphasized the importance of enacting long-range solutions – such as employee cost-sharing on health care costs – that would close the gap and avoid across-the-board cuts in services. The Chamber’s Legislative Affairs Committee will be briefed on that report by OLO Director Karen Orlansky at the committee’s January 31 meeting, which will be a joint session with the Economic Development Committee.

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