Baltimore County Legislative Wrap-Up
April 12, 2007
Mr. County Executive, thank you very much for the invitation to join you today in this beautiful park of Baltimore County. And thank you really for your leadership and for your vision at being willing to risk action on the faith that we can indeed dream a better future and make it so. That’s what you are doing in Baltimore County because of your important work and the work of your terrific delegation.
You know the word renaissance in Baltimore County – those words actually mean something. You’ve brought new life. You’ve brought new commitments and new opportunities to neighbors throughout this county.
And those new beginnings also spill over to our neighbors throughout the state. I believe in Baltimore County we see the way to energize every jurisdiction really, which is say every neighborhood matters, every classroom matters, every teacher matters, every family matters. We all matter and your government should work for you.
That is what Jim Smith does for Baltimore County and you all should be very proud.
To all of Baltimore County senators and delegates, it was a real honor to work with all of you this session. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, I’ve never seen a headline that follows a session where they say, “The legislature completed the work for the next ten years, and no one has to do any work anymore.”
You know we never get done everything that we want to get done in any one session. And no one expects us to do that. But you know what they do expect – they expect us to come together as we did in this session. To realize that “we are one, our cause is one, and we must help each other if we are to succeed,” to quote a great American. And that’s what we did and I really want to thank you.
Jim, you have a terrific delegation. The assignments that they have, the various committees that they worked, the savvy with which they worked and the decency with which they worked with people from both sides of the aisle, quite frankly, is really a model that helped us set that positive tone for where we could define consensus to advance the common good.
We also had some terrific local department heads and leaders who came down with their local perspectives and brought that professionalism and competence that makes the delegates and the senators from all over the state realize that “hey, you know what, our government can work. These dollars are well spent and well invested.”
And because of that partnership, the county executive went through a number of the things we have accomplished this year, but some of them were challenges and opportunities that were floating out there for last the 4 years, but it took the consensus and the ability to come together to make progress on those things:
To strengthen and grow our middle class and our family owned businesses.
To improve public safety and public education in ever part of our state
And to expand opportunity
That’s what we were about this session.
And get this, I know that all of you are going now going to be going on that tour. Just when your spouses thought it was safe to book dates on weekend. No, you are going to be going out to community meetings and meeting with local clubs and chambers of commerce and reporting back to them what their government did during the course of this session.
We have laid a foundation for progress for the future. That’s what we’ve done this session and you know what, we did it in a fiscally responsible way.
Last year, state budget grew by 12.5%. This year, even with the record investments in education and school construction, the budget grew by 2.1%. So that’s 12.5% growth last year and 2.1% growth this year. And it was less than the rate of inflation and much less than the spending and affordability limits set by the General Assembly.
We’ve implemented StateStat thanks to your votes. So, we are going to apply performance measurement to government – what a novel idea – every small business in America and every family in America has to measure its budget, measure its performance, and measure its outcome. We believe our state government should have to do the same thing. And that’s what your citizens believe. And that’s what your government is going to do.
To mention education, we kind of glossed over the fact that this year was the largest infusion, single year infusion, of state dollars to local school districts because of Thornton. It was a $580 million dollar increase. $580 million.
And if it doesn’t happen without vetoes and veto overrides it never got any ink. So, don’t forget to share that with our neighbors. $400 million in school construction. The state of Maryland would not have stepped up and invested $400 million more than we have ever invested in a single year, were it not for your leadership and your county executive’s leadership. So, thank you for what you have done for the entire state.
I see our community college president out there, we want to do more. But this year an 18% increase for community colleges and we were able to stave off a damaging increase in tuitions by investing again in that Maryland foundation of higher education.
On the environment, we have made a lot of great strides. We have implemented BayStat. We have re-implemented the Office of Smart Growth. We protected every single dollar of Open Space. Open Space dollars in the State of Maryland are now going to be used for Open Space.
We also did the Clean Cars bill. What a miraculous thing – science was on our side, health was on our side, future of our planet hanging in the balance and the General Assembly – the Senate and the House of Delegates came together – passed the bill – sent it to the Governor – and he signed it.
Isn’t that a much better way to do business?
We still have more work to do on public safety, but thanks to your leadership we made some progress there. Improving tracking and monitoring of sex offenders. Ending parole for those offenders under Jessica’s law. $2 million investment there.
But we are going to get these important pieces back onto the chess board of public safety – what are they? Juvenile Justice, Parole and Probation. Your county police officers should not be risking their lives out there while the state rocks back and says we don’t have a responsibility to get violent criminals off the street. We do and together we are going to do it much better with professionalism – with professional people in charge of Public Safety and Juvenile Services.
We also passed, with the help of so many in this room, the Living Wage bill – which simply says that when people work hard they should be able to feed their families from the fruits of their labors.
We are pro-work. As Marylanders, we are pro-work. We believe the people who work should be able to support their families decently, and that’s what we did with your vote.
We also restored the integrity of the Public Service Commission, we have professional regulators who are going to serve the public again.
And I know we have a lot more work to do. In fact, Jim, Delegate Morhaim told me he has a whole litany. He called it his unsung heroes bill. Bills that were great bills but nobody is talking about.
But we have an opportunity to do that.
To Johnny O – congratulations to you on being such an effective legislator. You had a great group of – I bet you hate to be called freshman delegate since you were for three months at the end of the last session – but you had a great new group of leaders.
To be able to get that LNG bill out of the House with the support of your colleagues in the county is quite an accomplishment. Jim, I promise you we are going to work with you and do everything we can to keep that LNG plant out of Baltimore County.
Let me just wrap up by saying again thank you to all of you. I have known many of you for a long time. We have served in local government, albeit on different sides of that city-county border, but you know what? Kids on the city side and the county side appreciate what it means to go to school where you can actually see the sun shine through a window. Kids on both sides of that understand what it means to be able to grow up in a neighborhood where it’s safe to play in the alleys and you don’t have to dodge bullets.
Kids on both sides understand what it means to be able to go home at night to a parent who doesn’t have to work two jobs in the course of one week. Kids on both sides of the city-county line and throughout our state should have opportunity of a high quality education, high expectations, and the ability to be able to go to college to make this state a better place for their kids. And I thank you for getting us on the road to that sort of Maryland all of us carry in our hearts.