May 17, 2012
This week, the Maryland General Assembly passed an income tax increase that will disproportionately hit Montgomery County residents. At the same time, our County Council approved a budget that will keep property tax revenue level and cut the energy tax.
While the State is passing off its obligations to local government and tying our hands with mandates, we are investing in our children, our community and our future.
This budget is an important step toward restoring many of the services that have been cut since the Great Recession. The FY13 Operating Budget was our first opportunity since the economic downturn to strengthen our social safety net by supporting programs that help our most vulnerable residents. We restored the Working Families Income Supplement and added an energy assistance program for low income residents.
We kept our promise to enhance positive youth development programming by funding the Families and Youth Enhancement Initiative, a key step towards strengthening our communities. We are increasing staff levels for our gang prevention specialists in the Street Outreach Network and expanding the successful East County Teen Escape Club model to 4 more sites Countywide. We are also providing job opportunities and indispensable learning experiences to youth this summer through the Student/Teen Employment Program (STEP).
As chair of the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, I have worked side-by-side with my colleagues to maintain our County’s pristine credit rating by making fiscally responsible decisions. This budget continues to adhere to the most rigorous fiscal policies and responsible Spending Affordability Guidelines that our County has ever adopted. We were able to fully fund all negotiated agreements by our public employee unions and give our hard-working County Employees a one-time lump sum payment after years of cuts and furloughs.
In the Capital Budget, I was proud that my colleagues came together to invest more than $66 million in Wheaton’s downtown over the next six years. We accelerated the construction of Wheaton Library and Recreation Center and kept on track the renovation of Wheaton High School and Thomas Edison Technical High School. We continued essential funding for the Olney Library, which is scheduled to be completed on time. This Council has always been fully committed to our transportation priorities, which is why we added funding for key Purple Line and infrastructure projects.
I want to thank our County Executive for sending a responsible budget, Council President Berliner for his leadership, and my colleagues for their diligent work in enhancing our priorities. Finally and most importantly, I want to thank our constituents for their feedback and contributions to our great County.