Del. Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery) will step down as chair of the Montgomery County delegation of the House of Delegates, a key county leadership post in the state legislature, he said in an interview Wednesday.
Feldman, who has served as chair for five years, said he will relinquish the position after a successor is elected July 17. Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Montgomery), a top leader in the House of Delegates, is the likely candidate to win, according to two state officials and a county official who were granted anonymity to speak freely about the election.
“It was time, quite frankly, to give someone else an opportunity to serve,” Feldman said.
In interviews Wednesday, several state legislators praised Feldman for running delegation meetings smoothly and working well with colleagues.
But some county officials have privately criticized him and other state leaders this year for approving changes to state law that shifted some of rising teacher pension to the counties and forced counties to maintain among the nation’s highest per-pupil school spending.
“The challenge that he had as a delegation leader was that county officials weren’t supportive of the [changes],” said Del. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery), a rookie legislator and former president of the Montgomery County Education Association.
On Monday, county officials projected a $71 million budget hole for transportation, public safety and other government agencies. They blamed the hole on the state legislature, adding that the school budget will increase by $30 million in fiscal 2014. Council member Valerie Ervin (D-Eastern County), who chairs the council’s education committee, said at a council hearing Monday that state legislators “didn’t know what they were doing.”
Feldman said the criticism is “misguided,” adding that the county delegation is serving as the “convenient whipping boy.”
“The reality is that the county budget situation is a result of many years of budget decisions the county has made,” he added. “We made a decision to protect our investment in K through 12 education.”
Kaiser, who serves as the House’s chief deputy majority whip and a key architect of the changes to school spending, said that Feldman collaborated well with the county and that she hopes to follow his lead. She added that she currently is “working to secure the votes.”