(April 24, 2015) The Shore’s representatives in both houses and across the aisle in the Maryland General Assembly have good things to say about the 2015 session, despite some of the acrimony over the budget in the final days.
“I have a degree of dissatisfaction with the conference committee report in that it didn’t come out the way I wanted. I’m concerned it moved too far away from what Gov. Hogan proposed,” Delegate Mary Beth Carozza said.
“I was pleased with the bipartisanship almost the whole trip up until the very end,” Senator Jim Mathias said. “When he presented it, Gov. Hogan said, ‘This is my plan, but if you find money, we’ll look at it.’”
When the legislature found the money they were looking for, how they got it and what they wanted to spend it on became issues.
“We backfilled money for education, a cost-of-living adjustment and Medicaid,” Mathias said.
The money was derived, Mathias said, from a revision to pension plans. Stocks performed better than expected, Mathias explained, leaving $150 million in unexpected additional funding, half of which was used to provide the money for the backfill.
“I continue to be very cautious in building the pension fund and not tapping it for spending today,” Carozza said, “but we can use this to build upon in the future.”
Carozza said the current budget limited spending growth to 1.3 percent, where the norm had been between five and seven percent in previous years.
Both are now laying the groundwork for next session, which convenes on Jan. 13, 2016 at noon.
“I’m going to use that time to meet with constituents, because the best ideas come from those meetings,” she said.
Determining how to implement the ideas is, to Carozza, almost as important as the ideas themselves.
“In certain areas, the challenge is to find if it’s a regulatory issue or requires a legislative solution. Sometimes there’s a way to resolve things with good ol’ constituent work. Legislation can be hard, so we need to see where regulation can help instead of a more broad legislative effort,” she said.
Mathias wants to build on his achievements this session and plans to meet with constituents every day to discuss issues.
“I’m here to serve my constituency. A balanced budget and funding education are really the only jobs we do. We need to decide how to make school after Labor Day more attractive to its opponents. I’m pleased with keeping the phosphorus management tool from being implemented,” he said.
Gov. Hogan pulled the phosphorus management tool legislation on his first day in office and rather than send it through legislative route, the measure was passed as a regulation.
“It’s a tremendous way to accomplish the same goal. To do this as regulation is easier to change and modify as the findings come in, and it gives people extra time and opportunity to work together. We can see how to make it work for both the environmental and farming communities,” Mathias said.
Both officials were pleased with the passage of the bill allowing Seacrets to open a craft distillery on its 49th Street property. The nightclub had been distilling its own liquor in Delaware.
They also agreed that shoaling at the inlet was a major issue requiring immediate attention.