The annual report card from the Maryland Food Committee may merit prominent display on Gov. William Donald Schaefer's refrigerator.
Grades for fighting hunger were up and the state received its first A-minus ever. The governor gets extra credit, as the report card notes that the administration's efforts in fighting hunger were a grade above the legislature's.
The statewide anti-hunger group, which was releasing the report card at a news conference today, gave the state a B-minus overall, noting in teacher-style rhetoric: "Making progress but has not reached potential."
It was a significant improvement over last year's D-plus, largely because of one category, "Feeding Mothers and Children."
The General Assembly's agreement to start contributing state money next year to the federal program known as WIC (the supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children) catapulted the state from an F in 1990 to an A-minus this year. Other grades also improved, but none so dramatically.
The Maryland Food Committee annually grades the administration and General Assembly budget, although categories can change from year to year. This year, for example, it dropped "Feeding Schoolchildren," which was not a legislative issue during the 1991 session, and substituted "Tax Reform."
"Tax Reform" and "Helping Private Efforts" were two areas in which the Schaefer administration received higher marks than the legislature.
Because of the governor's support for the Linowes bill, a proposal that would have raised an additional $800 million by restructuring the tax code, the administration received a B for tax reform. The legislature, however, shelved Linowes for summer study and received a C-minus, giving the state a C average in this category.
The administration also fared better for "Helping Private Efforts." The governor's supplemental budget for 1992 includes $100,000 for the Statewide Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps food banks with capital expenses, earning the administration a C-plus. The General Assembly, which rejected the proposal, got a D, giving the state a C average, the same grade as last year.
In the two remaining categories, "Feeding Seniors" and "Fighting Poverty," the administration and the legislature received a B and C, respectively.
In upgrading "Feeding Seniors" from last year's C, the report card noted that the 1992 budget restored cuts made in 1991, increasing funds for senior nutrition programs 17.8 percent.
"Once again, this year's appropriation does not keep pace with the increasing numbers of older Marylanders," according to the report card, prepared by policy specialist Darold Johnson. However, it said, given budget constraints and the fact that Maryland is one of only a few states that supplement their federal grants for elderly nutrition programs, "its efforts should not go unrecognized."
The state received a C for fighting poverty because it resisted efforts to cut two benefit programs, General Public Assistance and Aid to Families with Dependent Children. This is up from a D last year, when the committee chided the legislature for giving only a 2 percent increase in benefits. However, this year's recession apparently provided a different context for the grading.