WASHINGTON - Members of the Montgomery County Council have taken a look at Governor Martin O'Malley's proposed budget and they don't like what they see.
Councilmember Craig Rice, a former state delegate, says he is not impressed by the figures supplied by O'Malley's office indicating the county could actually see a net gain of $18 million dollars.
"There's no question we're not getting a fair deal," he says. "There are too many questions."
And too many assumptions that the $18 million can be generated by legislation that's never succeeded in the past, he adds.
Lawmakers are unhappy that under O'Malley's plan income tax deductions, including those on home mortgages, will be capped for individuals making more than $100,000 and for couples making more than $150,000.
"Maryland isn't just a high-income state, it's a high-cost state," says Melanie Wenger, director of the Office of Intergovernmental Relations, which acts as a liaison between the council and the county's delegation to Annapolis.
She points out that people making more than $100,000 who live in Montgomery County, where housing costs are among the highest in the region, can be considered middle class.
A big part of the push back against O'Malley's budget stems from his attempt to get counties to pay half the cost of teacher pensions, an expense the state has covered for more than 80 years.
When Montgomery County's Executive Ike Leggett called the proposal a non-starter, Wenger says there were comments that counties were overly generous with teacher pay and benefits, and therefore, only had themselves to blame.
"It was part of a policy goal to invest more in school systems, and therefore invest more in salaries, and as a result, benefits," she says.
Market return on pensions also took a big hit.
"In 2008 when the market crashed, every large pension system had huge losses. Maryland's pension system was no different," Wenger says.
Lawmakers are also concerned about the return on the dollar when it comes to education. Wenger explained that funding under the plan isn't strictly based on numbers.
The education funding formula includes a "wealth test" in which the money goes to jurisdictions with more economically-challenged children. So despite the fact that Montgomery County has roughly 23,000 more students than neighboring Prince George's County, Montgomery County will get $28 million dollars compared to $39 million for Prince George's County.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)
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