Thursday, December 11, 2014

Shortfall Nothing New in Howard County (Thursday LINKS)

County Executive Kittleman is coming into office with a $13 million budget shortfall to address, writes Amanda Yeager with the Flier.  However, budget shortfalls are nothing new in Howard County.  There was a $13 million shortfall in FY2010 and a $20 million shortfall in FY2011.  County Executive Ulman managed to fill these gaps with most of us being none the wiser, while County employees saw pay freezes and furloughs.

According to the article in the Flier, Allan will be addressing a $14 million gap by asking department heads to propose cuts that will trim 5% of planned spending by the end of this fiscal year (June 30).  So long as there is flexibility built into this approach, I think it is a fair way to proceed by empowering those who know how far each dollar goes in their department.  My concern is that a hard line on 5% may create Howard County's version of sequestration (i.e., "stupid cuts").  There are some departments in Howard County government that can afford to cut 5%.  There are others that cannot afford to cut anything.  Where is the differentiation being made?

But that is to presume an approach that has not been adopted by the County Executive.  If I'm in his shoes, I collect these 5% reports and use them to make my decision as opposed to merely signing them into effect.  Pursuant to Allan's focus on transparency, I think it would be interesting if he released these reports to the public to get a better view of how government dollars are spent and the effect of spending cuts on government services.  This would be particularly powerful and persuasive from a Republican Executive when many Republicans believe the "spending cuts = service cuts" component of public spending is a myth.

The last bit that interests me about this issue is how much we hear about it in FY2015, FY2016, etc.  As noted in earlier posts, "the mess the other guy left me with" is a tried and true line for making hard sells to the public on necessary action.  History suggests that these shortfalls are directly related to the unpredictability of County revenue, but this particular shortfall, with a new political party in power, may provide a foothold for more drastic cuts down the way.


Howard County teacher Doug Lea has been named to the National Board for Teacher Certification, writes Blair Ames with the Flier.  I had a chance to get to know Doug through the campaign and my HCEA endorsement.  He is one of the truly good guys in local education and I am so happy to see him receive this honor.

Howard County seniors met to discuss the creation of a Master Plan for our County's "aging population", writes Blair Ames (who has had a busy week).  I've always said that any Master Plan for Seniors needs to begin with advocacy for expanded delegation authority for nurses.  Our heavily curtailed practice allowances for RN's and LPN's makes full-spectrum medical care in the home, and not in a nursing facility, too expensive to afford.

Attorney General-elect Brian Frosh's "fight like hell for justice" may bring him nose-to-nose with Governor-elect Hogan, writes Timothy Wheeler with The Sun.  As the article notes, the Governor has a significant advantage in determining how the AG's office is funded and the ability to decline state action under certain circumstances.  Nevertheless, if there is legal room to move, I wouldn't want to be on the other side of a brief filed by AG Frosh.

Meanwhile, the Sun editorial board writes that Comptroller Peter Franchot is in the "cat-bird seat" in relation to Governor-elect Hogan.  He will be the deciding vote between Hogan and Democrat Treasurer Nancy Kopp on the Board of Public Works and has a bully pulpit to rough up Hogan should he find the need to do so.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: HowChow writes that Garbanzo and Gadsby's have closed. I never did get a chance to try the latter.

Have a great Thursday doing what you love!