New taxes, policy initiatives should be off the table during special session

September 10, 2011

In approximately six weeks the Maryland General Assembly will meet in a special session to perform its constitutional duty to reapportion the state for congressional districts. The reapportionment is necessary so congressional districts reflect the new population data from the 2010 census. During the special session it is important state legislators not waiver from their task of approving a reapportionment plan. For that reason, they should not consider any new taxes or major policy initiatives.

During the past several legislative sessions, the General Assembly has put in place a spending plan that recognizes the tough fiscal times the state faces by supporting education and transportation. The legislature needs to continue to hold the line on taxes so working families will have enough funds to maintain their households. Businesses need to hold on to their money as they continue to recover from the long-term national recession.

Despite tough economic conditions, Maryland's sound fiscal policy has continued to maintain the state's triple A bond rating — one of only eight states that has this rating in 2011. The AAA rating results in the state paying millions of dollars less in interest rates for capital projects like public school construction and road projects.

In addition, the Maryland legislature addressed the structural deficit and pension reform during the 2011 legislative session. The structural deficit was reduced by 46 percent and is on target to be completely eliminated within the next two years. Maryland also cut more than 650 vacant state positions, which saved $27 million.

Because of the state rainy day fund (5 percent of the budget, or $642 million), the $123 million cash balance this year, and the $400 million revenue increases, our state enjoys more than $1 billion in cash reserves.

The legislature has an obligation to meet for reapportionment, but expanding the agenda to include new taxes and policy initiatives should not be considered.

Del. Galen Clagett, Frederick

The writer, a Democrat, represents Frederick County in the Maryland House of Delegates.

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