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Fraser Smith's Essay: March 21, 2013
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March 21, 2013
Even casual observers might be surprised to see government actually working in Maryland. WYPR’s Senior News Analyst Fraser Smith comments in his weekly essay:
Spoiler alert! Government in Maryland is working. Solving problems. Listening to the people.
No way, you say. There must be some mistake.
No mistake. Two of Maryland’s most vexing problems seem to be on the brink of solution.
The questions: what to do about raising money for transportation projects, and how to finance a billion dollars’ worth of school construction and repair in Baltimore. Both questions seem to be nearing dramatic answers.
First, the transportation question: the legislature seems likely to approve tax increases that would raise $830 million annually after six years. As it stands, the House bill addresses an inherently political issue – taxes. The word had been: this was a bridge too far. Some legislators just wouldn’t go for it. That may have changed. A bill from Governor Martin O’Malley, tweaked in the Senate and further adjusted in the House, is expected to pass. You may have forgotten what it looks like, but this called problem solving.
As WYPR’s Karen Hosler reports, a complex plan to raise $1 billion in school construction money for Baltimore was even more challenging. Speaker Busch and Senate President Miller addressed the city’s proposal with great misgivings as the session opened in January.
Now, though, another House bill proposes to direct $20 million a year in state money to the city. That sum would be matched by $20 million a year from the city, and $20 million a year from the school department’s budget. That steam theoretically would allow the city to borrow $1 billion for the schools project. It’s not the $32 million Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake requested, but it’s a lot of money. It’s a compromise. Maybe you’ve heard of that.
Neither proposal is, as they say, a done deal. But there’s momentum. House and Senate and Governor’s office are in accord.
Really? You ask.
IN FOCUS TODAY
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