Council President Roger Berliner Talks State, County Budget

Posted Date: 
March 19, 2012

 

Council President Roger Berliner address a joint meeting between the Chamber's Legislative Affairs and Economic Development Committees.

Legislative Affairs Committee Vice-Chair Joshua Bokee, Comcast, and Economic Development Committee Vice-Chair Bill Robertson, Adventist HealthCare, welcomed Council President Roger Berliner for their joint meeting to discuss the County Budget, which was introduced by the County Executive on March 15.

Council President Berliner opened the meeting by discussing what is at skate in the current budget discussion in our State legislature. The impacts of those decisions will be felt by Montgomery County and will help guide their decisions related to the County’s budget. Berliner spoke about the State shifting teacher pension costs to the Counties. Montgomery County is opposed to this idea and participated a state-wide campaign called “Stop the Shift” to try to push back. Another issue of concern is the proposed revision to the Maintenance of Effort law that would allow Counties to increase their tax burden over their charter limits to fund education or allow the Comptroller to circumvent local government and deliver funds directly to the school board to meet Maintenance of Effort. While the County has put up a fight to both of these proposals, they appear likely to pass in some form.

Berliner spoke about how these changes in Annapolis could affect the $4.5 billion County budget, of which more than 50% goes to fund education. He said that during the Great Recession, the County cut employee benefits, furloughed employees, and cut to the point where there is little “fat” remaining. Berliner spoke about how this budget included modest increases to the library system and the police force, the latter of which is currently running too lean in terms of number of police on duty at a given time.

He spoke about the energy tax increase, which was due to sunset this year. He cited his initial opposition to the tax and his original desire to have it sunset in 2010. Berliner mentioned that the tax raises an extra $111 million and it is difficult to find more places to cut to gain that money back. The County council will be looking at the energy tax issue in its operating budget deliberations.

Berliner also discussed a few proposals currently being considered by the County Council on Economic Development. He spoke about his original intention to draft legislation that would establish an Economic Development Authority, but that was difficult to do inside of existing state law. Rather, he is sponsoring legislation to give the Council additional oversight in how the Economic Development Fund is used and spent.

Berliner answered questions on a wide variety of topics from the large crowd in attendance. He answered questions on land use policy, economic development, and advocacy in the state legislature.

 

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