Early Monday, most of the county’s delegation to the House of Delegates met in a closed-door meeting to discuss what they could get for the county as the General Assembly hashed out final details on the state budget, a tax package on high-income earners and a measure to build a full-fledged casino in Prince George’s County, state officials said.
“A bunch of us got together to say, ‘Hey, is this budget and tax package a good thing for Montgomery County? Can we ask for some of the things that our county needs?’” said one of the officials, who was granted anonymity to speak freely about matters that weren’t public. “And the conversation sort of went to, ‘Well, we haven’t done a good job of articulating our demands.’”
After the meeting, a one-page e-mail was circulated among state legislators that said the administration of County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) wanted money for Ride-On buses and small transportation projects and legislation that would allow the county to approve an ambulance fee that couldn’t be struck down by referendum.
Ultimately, state legislators did make a final push for Ride-On funding, and was close to securing $10 million in additional funding each year. But then the funding fell through, because it was tied to the state’s tax package, which failed Monday night. (Some state legislators hope that they will be able to approve the bill in a special legislative session.)
On Tuesday, some Montgomery County Council officials raised issue with Leggett’s requests, saying they weren’t consulted. The ambulance fee is particularly controversial because it was passed by the County Council and later struck down by referendum in 2010.
Leggett officials said the ambulance fee legislation was being floated, but nothing came of it. Del. Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery), who attended the Monday meeting and is chair of the county’s house delegation, said state legislators did not seriously discuss the legislation.
“I think there was resistance … essentially reversing a referendum decision,” Feldman said. “That may be something at some point one might want to consider, but not on the last night of sine die.”
State and county officials said Montgomery County was in defense for most of the legislative session, because of proposed changes to the state’s income tax structure, teacher pensions and the formula to decide how much counties must allocate each year for school funding.
The county has scored some small victories this legislative session. It is expected to receive $40 million for school construction and a $5 million expansion of the Universities at Shady Grove.
The county also secured an extension of a tax credit for a major company in the county, Discovery Communications. The company is expected to save about $1 million each year for the 12 years because of the bill, according to state documents.
“That was one of the items that we thought we needed to get done because it’s a major employer in the county,” Leggett said.