At my swearing-in ceremony in January, trailblazing former U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski spoke about the importance of focusing on the “macro issues” and the “macaroni-and-cheese issues,” and then she passed me a symbolic torch as I became Maryland’s 34th — and first female — comptroller.
My team and I have been running with that torch in my first 100 days, intent on building an agency that will help create communities that are more equitable, resilient and prosperous.
First and foremost, that means ensuring our agency is operating at peak performance. With the help of the governor and General Assembly, we restructured our leadership team to improve accountability, transparency and outcomes. And we’re adding new team members in the next fiscal year to ensure we can serve the needs of all Marylanders.
We are also acting swiftly to move our systems out of the age of COBOL, a programming language dating to 1959, when Louis Goldstein began the first of his 10 terms as Maryland comptroller. He liked to boast that he guided the agency from pencil and paper to the mainframe. We’ve hired the agency’s first CIO and are now focused on taking the agency from the mainframe to the cloud — a necessary step, as evidenced by the temporary outage of our tax processing system last month. And although this will be a yearslong evolution, with every new update we are making critical, agencywide changes that will increase our capacity and improve service.
I’m also proud of the work of our new Office of Equity and Transformation. Not only have we hired the agency’s first chief equity and transformation officer, but we’ve also been working to ensure that we are listening to our team members. As comptroller, I help oversee 11 branch offices around the state and we’ve already hit seven of them on my “Branching Out Tour.” I’m excited to get to the rest to make sure our dedicated team can share their insights and visionary ideas directly with me.
Second, we are building new partnerships with the General Assembly that will ensure legislative priorities can be implemented faithfully by the Office of the Comptroller and that we are working to create an agency serving the needs of all Marylanders and Maryland businesses. For instance, we were proud to support legislation to require that nonprofits be paid promptly for the hard work their employees provide to state agencies, and we supported the Family Prosperity Act to extend the relief afforded by the state Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.
We also passed our own key legislative priorities, including a bill to create an Office of the Taxpayer Advocate — a best practice already used by the federal government and in other states to answer taxpayer questions and remove systemic barriers. This work, coupled with the work of our new Legal Division, which will provide private letter rulings to businesses with complex tax questions, will make it easier to file tax returns and interact with the agency.
Finally, we are re-imagining how the Office of the Comptroller can support entrepreneurs and businesses, and benefit communities and families. Our new Office of Policy, Public Works and Investment is leading efforts to deepen our investments in small businesses as well as those owned by women and people of color. At every turn, we aim to serve as a good steward of our public dollars on the Board of the State Retirement & Pension System and the Board of Public Works.
It has been an honor to work alongside Gov. Wes Moore and Treasurer Dereck Davis. Since January, the Board of Public Works has approved over $2 billion in state investments and has been laser-focused on exceeding our state’s minority business enterprise goals. As vice chair of the Pension Board, I’m also working to ensure that climate change is treated as the investment risk that it is — ensuring that our beneficiaries’ pension dollars are safe for decades to come.
We’re also rapidly completing my first tax season as comptroller. So far, we have processed more than 2.5 million tax returns and sent out 1.7 million refunds valued at more than $2.25 billion dollars. We’ve also mailed out postcards to almost 80,000 Marylanders, letting them know that we have their unclaimed property.
As I move beyond the 100-day milestone, I look forward to continuing to work closely with our staff and in partnership with residents all around the state, to forge a new path for the Comptroller’s Office — one that, as Sen. Mikulski wisely advised, addresses the concerns that Marylanders discuss at the kitchen table.
Brooke Lierman (email@example.com) is the 34th comptroller of the state of Maryland. She lives in Baltimore City.