Gouge backs budget-control bills


ANNAPOLIS -- Carroll County Commissioner Julia W. Gouge testified yesterday in favor of four bills aimed at giving county government more control over its own budget.

"When I look at the county budget, I have no control over 68 percent of it," said Mrs. Gouge, who also is legislative chairman ,, for the Maryland Association of Counties. She testified at hearings in the House Appropriations Committee.

The bills, supported by MaCo, the Maryland Municipal League and county governments statewide, would allow counties to control budgets of state agencies that receive the majority of their funding from the counties.

One of the bills would stop the state from mandating programs for counties without providing money to pay for them.

The legislation faces an uphill battle in committee, Mrs. Gouge said yesterday. "It didn't look good in there," she said after the hearing.

The bills are:

* HB1025, State Board of Mandate Review, would create a panel that would look at state mandates with the aim of setting priorities. "We are saying if it's important enough to mandate, then it's important enough to fund, and if it's not important enough to fund, then it's not important enough to mandate," Mrs. Gouge said.

* HB1181, Orphans' Courts and Local Boards of Supervisors of Elections, would transfer the cost of these county-funded programs to the state.

* HB1225, County-funded State Entities-Fiscal Control, would give county governments budgeting power over state agencies that get county money.

* HB1226, State Budget-Reduction in Appropriations to Counties, would give the county authority to adjust budgets -- such as education -- when the state reduces the amount of money it is giving the county.

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