Friday, April 20, 2012

The Ransom Budget (Friday LINKS)

Although the State of Maryland seems to have become comfortable with the term "Doomsday Budget", I think we need to make sure we educate ourselves about what exactly is at stake.  Those that crafted this Budget were not government reformers.  They did not take a measured look at government finances and say "Worst case scenario, these are the things we can afford to cut."  Rather, they thought "What can we do to coerce lawmakers to pass additional revenue?  What can we hold for ransom?"

How about...
A 12-13% increase in in-state tuition?
State-wide Per-pupil spending cut from $6,761 to $6,650?
8% cuts to operating budgets for foster care and residential treatment programs for the disabled?
$20 Million cut in grants to local law enforcement?

There's also the very likely threat that a cut to local aid will send many counties into a tail-spin, in which their bond rating is downgraded, it costs more to borrow, operating expenses stay the same, and they are forced to borrow at a higher rate, dooming local budgets for the next decade.  Most interesting is that this tail-spin is very likely to occur in some of the more conservative jurisdictions that do not have the necessary reserves to off-set a cut in State aid.

I will acknowledge up front that I am not an expert in what I like to call "government math", in which  a "cut" is really just a failure to increase spending.  However, to the extent that these are the priorities on the chopping block, I don't think any Marylander should be satisfied.

That doesn't mean cuts are bad.  In fact, had a more benevolent hand held the scalpel, the "Doomsday Budget" could have been one of the best things ever to happen to this State.  But it was set up to punish.  You, or someone very close to you, will be hurt by these cuts in a very concrete way.

And please, don't tell me we can't "afford" foster care.  Don't tell me we can't "afford" to maintain law enforcement and higher education funding.  Saying as much promotes cutting for the sake of cutting.  Our inclination is to applaud cuts in a State that raises taxes on a semi-annual basis, but these are not the cuts you're looking for.  If the alternative is a hike in taxes, which it most assuredly is, maybe we are better off with the Doomsday Budget, but lets not applaud its merits.  It is a bad, clumsy, injurious piece of legislation that will hurt those who can't help themselves.


Howard County detectives had a big day yesterday with the arrest of an Elkridge man for the 1991 murder of his then wife, who was reported to have disappeared.  Although the details of what led them to a backyard shed are unclear, the remains of the victim were found buried in cement underneath the structure.

The Howard County School Board has finalized its contract with Renee Foos, which will be signed next Thursday.  Interestingly enough, the last time Ms. Foos found herself in the newspaper, it was over her $214,000 salary as deputy superintendent in Baltimore County.  The details of Ms. Foos's contract with Howard County will be made available at the Board's April 24 26 meeting.  Notably, the Board voted in December to approve a salary range of $275,000.

Former Baltimore City Mayor Sheila Dixon was roasted for charity last night.  I was very disappointed in what Ms. Dixon was accused to have done, but I think this is pretty neat.  She took on public humiliation (however good natured) for a good cause.

A winter survey of the Chesapeake crab population found the highest totals since 1993!  Get over here you with your big mean claws...I want to introduce you to my mallet.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Oftentimes the best thing for a community is for a newcomer to share their observations.  I found a lot to like about Matt's "to do" list.  It was like learning about Howard County (and the Mid-Atlantic region) all over again.

That's all for today.  Have a fantastic Friday doing what you love, it's impossible not to!