In the Beginning...

February 4, 2016

Happy February! It's great to be back in Annapolis where the General Assembly has been in session since mid-January.  We are off and running - with more than 3,000 bill drafting requests, veterans have told me that we may hit a record-breaking number of bills to consider.

We began session with a series of veto overrides, not because we wanted to start in an adversarial way, but because the Maryland Constitution requires us to consider vetoes among our first orders of business. Unlike some state legislatures, we do not hold "veto sessions" after vetoes are made and unless there is a special session, the first opportunity to override a veto is the next regular legislative session.  The House voted to override the following:

·  HB 71-Capital Budget Line-Item veto of a project at the Maryland Hall for the Arts

·  SB 190-Clarifcation that the sales and use tax we all pay must be remitted by online travel companies to the state (currently, consumers pay this tax but the online travel companies do not remit the full amount)

·  HB 209-A similar bill affecting only Howard County's lodging tax

·  HB 980-A bill allowing Marylanders who have been convicted of a felony to vote upon release from prison

·  SB 517-A clean-up bill that brings drug paraphernalia law in line with the current law that decriminalized small scale possession of marijuana

·  SB 528-A reform to the state's civil asset forfeiture law, shifting the burden to the state to prove that assets should be seized

The Senate has also voted to override all but one of the bills, but because they were waiting for the final appointment of a new Senator, they are expected to vote on the final bill this week. I supported all of these bills last year and supported a veto override this year.

A week into session the Governor introduced the budget, more than $42 billion, representing an almost 5% increase in spending over last year and the committee on which I serve, Appropriations, has begun the long and difficult task of holding budget hearings. I will bring you budget updates throughout the session, but here are a few highlights:

·  Almost $818 million in direct aid to Baltimore County, over $600 million of that going to public schools. This does NOT include capital funds

·  Cash reserves of $449 million and a rainy day fund balance of $1.1 billion (6.3% of general fund revenues)

·  Tax and fee reductions that reduce revenues in FY '17 by $23 million and up to $145 million by 2021

·  The budget is structurally balanced in FY '17 and has a surplus of $100 million for FY '18.  Becomes imbalanced again in ’19-'21

·  If we don’t do revenue reductions, we are structurally balanced through FY '21

·  2% cap on tuition

·  There are zero funds included for the CORE program the Governor announced in Baltimore City a few weeks ago for the demolition of vacant houses

·  For the second year in a row, zero funds were included for bond projects. Last year the legislature was able to include funds that support projects important to our district like the Pikesville Volunteer Fire House, Lake Roland Nature Center, and Gilead House

On the revenue side:

·  Increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – low/moderate income workers can claim federal credit. State credit is 26% of fed credit, going up to 28% in 2018. Proposed accelerating to 2016. This costs $16 million in FY '17; $8 million in FY '18. This is policy the legislature has been very supportive of long before I got to Annapolis

·  Fee reductions – birth/death certificates, handgun licenses, license plates = $5.2 million in FY '17

·  Business filing fee reduction – from $300 to $50 = $14 million in FY '18, $60 million annually

·  Manufacturing Tax Incentives – manufacturing empowerment zones – eliminate corporate income tax for 10 years on new manufacturers and exempt folks who work there making less than $65k from income tax

·  Transfer tax moved from general fund goes from $40 million to $20 million to be spent on land preservation

·  Senior tax exemption – individuals aged 65 and over can claim income tax exemption of $1000; increasing to $5,000 beginning in FY '18 = $23 million, then  $100 million annually. I believe the Governor has not limited this exemption to moderate or low income older adults

I'll keep you informed about the budget process as we proceed, but please remember that the legislature CANNOT add to the budget, we have a very gubernatorial-centric budget-making process and the legislature can only put certain limitations on spending but we cannot force the Governor to release funds or redirect funds.  

With regard to policy, I am supporting the Democratic Caucus' Middle Class Economic Package that focuses on college affordability, pay equity and retirement security:

·  58% of 2014 Maryland college graduates from public universities had student debt: an average debt of $27,457. Maryland ranked 34th in the nation for percentage of graduates with student loan debt

·  Maryland had the 4th smallest tuition increase in the nation from fiscal 2010 to 2015, but college is out of reach for more and more Maryland families as wages stagnated during to the Great Recession

·  Nationally, women made 79% percent of what men made in 2014

·  In Maryland in 2014, a woman working full time, is paid an average of $49,000 per year, while a man is paid $57,000 per year

·  11 states have pay equity laws that contain wage disclosure provisions similar to those proposed in Maryland last year

·  An estimated one million Marylanders lack adequate retirement savings and are at risk of financial distress when they eventually retire

·  In Maryland, more than a third those within ten years of retirement age have saved less than $10,000

·  The primary reason that Marylanders lack retirement savings is that their employers do not offer a pension plan or other retirement savings opportunities at work. Most of these plans are paid out in a single lump sum payment, and unlike traditional pensions, few retirement plans offer reliable retirement income for life

If you've made it this far in the email, I hope you're not totally overwhelmed and apologies for the wonkiness! We have a lot of policies to consider and in the coming weeks I'm excited to share with you some of the initiatives that I'm proposing.  I'm very grateful to be here advocating for the 11th District and truly appreciate the opportunity to serve the community.  Thanks so much for your support and I will be in touch again soon.  In the meantime, feel free to contact me:

Delegate Shelly Hettleman
Lowe House Office Building, Room 311
Annapolis, MD 21401

Please "like" my Facebook page & follow me on Twitter:
@shellyhettleman (Twitter)




Shelly Hettleman
Delegate, District 11