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Steve's News From Annapolis

2012-03-23

This week’s work has been the most intense of the year. After long committee meetings and legislative sessions, we passed a large number of bills.  We had extensive, passionate and thoughtful debate on the budget, taxes, public education funding and some of the most significant environmental legislation in years.

The State Budget: Round 3

In prior newsletters, I laid out the main elements of the Governor’s budget and tax proposals and, then, the Senate’s. The House had four (4) bills to vote on. Although I had strong disagreements with part of the tax bill, I voted for it and the other three bills that comprise this comprehensive budget package. I did not want any tax increase for the vast majority of taxpayers. I wanted the increase to start at a higher bracket and to see more programs “level funded” and additional cuts. This was not the accepted approach.

The House version of tax increase would apply to approximately 8% of people in the County and in the state. While deeper cuts would have reduced that percentage further, this was not acceptable to the majority. The budget will allow us to fund education, to keep college tuitions down, and address other priorities. Forty percent of the state budget will continue to go to local governments.

Following two days of extensive debate, including an 11 hour session on Thursday, the House:

  • Did not increase the income tax obligation for single filers with a federal adjusted gross income (FAGI) below $100,000 and joint filers below $150,000
  • Increases the income tax by .25% for each income bracket above $150/$200,000 FAGI
  • Reduces the exemptions more gradually than the Senate
  • Increases the tax on other tobacco products: moist snuff and smokeless increases to 50% of the wholesale price, other cigars to 70% but premier cigars remain at 15%
  • Eliminated the internet sales tax proposal
  • Reduced General Funds by nearly $400 million
  • Proposes to shift 50% of the ‘normal cost’ of teachers’ pensions to the counties this year and fully shifts the pensions in three years
  • Continues to require Counties to maintain the same level of education funding as required, provides incentives for the Counties and if the County fails to fully fund education, the State can hold money and redirect it to education 

“Maintenance of Effort”


Maintenance of Effort (“MOE”) is a decades old requirement that county public school systems must at least maintain the same level of funding that existed in the previous year. Each county provides funds but also relies on the state to support its schools. Over the past few years, however, more and more counties have reduced their contributions and expected the state to provide an increase in the required funds! This is unsustainable. There is a need for greater predictability.

I supported HB 1412 to require each county meet its MOE, limit the ability of the counties to reduce its contributions and, if the county does not meet MOE, enables the state to redirect the county’s piggyback income tax from the county to the school system. This is a serious attempt to get each county that is not meeting MOE, or committed to providing needed funds, to take the responsibility for local public education.

Helping the Bay


In 2005, the Bay Restoration Fund was created with the “flush tax” to fund pollution reduction in the Bay and its tributaries. This tax is $2.50 per month. These funds have supported the upgrade of 40 wastewater treatment plants, extensive planting of cover crops on farms, and replaced thousands of failing septic systems. However, we do not have enough to meet our mandated goals and to substantially reduce pollution that goes into the Bay.

So, after heated debate, we passed an increase in the “flush tax” to $5 per month to meet our legal obligations. I voted for this increase because the need is so great and we are under legal requirements to address Bay pollution. The bill also requires every county to establish “hardship provisions” for those unable to pay. These monies will allow the upgrade of wastewater treatment facilities, including Back River, fund upgrades to more failed septic systems and add funds so farmers can plant more cover crops.

Storm water runoff remains one of the biggest problems in the urban and suburban communities. “Storm water runoff” results when rainwater carries pollutants into the storm drains and into Bay and rivers. Reducing stormwater pollution is very expensive. After five years of discussion and debate, the House passed a bill that requires ten counties, including Baltimore County, to establish a stormwater remediation fee to address this problem. These counties are already required to address stormwater as part of their Phase I Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit. Baltimore County will determine its appropriate fee. I voted for this legislation.

While these are controversial issues, I voted to provide the best budget possible and to address lingering and persistent problems in the funding of pensions, meeting our educational needs and tackling the pollution of the Bay. I continue to feel honored to serve the 42nd District. Please feel free to contact me at Stephen.Lafferty@house.state.md.us or at 410-841-3487 if you have comments or questions.

Steve Lafferty

Contact Steve

Contact Delegate Lafferty
By Phone: 410-841-3487
By Email: stephen.lafferty@house.state.md.us

Contact the Campaign
By Phone: 410-377-4521
By Email: lafferty@delegatelafferty.com

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