A former budget finance advisor during the Reagan Administration once said, "There is no public tooth fairy. Father Christmas does not work on the Treasury staff. You can never bail someone out of trouble without putting someone else into trouble."
Seems our friends in both Washington and Annapolis have lost sight of this.
Over the past year Harford County, as other jurisdictions, has had to find ways to mitigate the myriad of fiscal problems that have been passed down to us from either the Federal government or our friends in Annapolis.
Passing the buck is not solving a fiscal problem – just rearranging the location and nature of the problem.
Some examples of the actions the State has taken which now directly impact Harford County and counties around the state are:
- In 2011, the Maryland General Assembly passed 90 percent of the costs associated with assessments to county governments, despite the fact that SDAT is a state agency with a director appointed by the governor.
- $700 million has been cut to highway user revenues, money which was shifted into the general fund to bolster other state programs. That was money counties depended on for building and repairing roads, and now we must find it from other sources.
- The state continues to adopt land use policies that threaten to lower rural property values and negatively affect local property tax income.
- Finally, in public education, last session the General Assembly tightened the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) law, forcing counties to allocate significant levels of funding to education while not guaranteeing the state's own level of commitment.
Additionally, we have had to assume a very significant share of the cost of teacher pensions without any ability to negotiate those benefits.
Finally, as a result of the passage of House Bill 987 last year as well as escalating requirements from the EPA and the Maryland Department of the Environment, all taxpayers in Harford County will see their property tax bill increase perhaps by upwards of $100 this year as a state required payment toward stormwater remediation.
It has been said many times, our government doesn't have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem!
The continual pass-through of unfunded mandates to Harford County simply exacerbates the fiscal issues our taxpayers must deal with. The state of Maryland must stop this trickle-down approach to balancing their budget on the backs of local jurisdictions.
However, no matter what the State does as a result of their failure in fiscal leadership and responsibility, Harford County must continue to move forward and continue to build on the successes we have achieved during the past seven years.
As I stated in the opening of my address, "Where there is no vision, the people perish".
In spite of the numerous challenges facing Harford County, we must work together to plow new ground as opposed to letting the weeds grow.
Last month I outlined in specific detail a vision for Harford County for the next two years. Yes, it is an ambitious two-year plan, but a plan based upon the needs of a growing, prosperous county.
The two-year plan covers the Administration's priorities which need our attention:
Public Education – notably the replacement of four (4) multi-building schools