Public Policy Updates: Council Resolution and State Budget Issues
By Henry Bogdan, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Maryland Nonprofits
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Removing Support from Community Services — Heather Iliff, Maryland Nonprofits CEO, joined numerous Anne Arundel County organizations in testifying on Sept. 21 against a Council Resolution (Resolution 47-15) to cut back and gradually eliminate their Community Support Grants program starting with the next fiscal year’s budget. The sense of the resolution was that grants to nonprofits (providing services for abused children, persons with disabilities, the homeless, and other disadvantaged people) are not serving a “key function” of government, and these funds are essentially charitable contributions and not an appropriate use of the public’s money. Needless to say we disagree. Many counties in Maryland have similar programs, and the resolution simply misses the fact that nonprofits are a critical part of government service delivery across the nation. We are continuing to work with groups in the county to address this issue with political leaders there.
State Budget Issues to Continue — The Budget Bill enacted in April for FY 2016 required an additional $118 million (approximately 2%) reduction across state agencies and directed the Governor to determine and report the allocation of these reductions by September. Last week, the legislature’s fiscal committees received an analysis of the cuts and an update on the state revenue and budget situation from the Department of Legislative Services (“DLS”). The State Budget Secretary David Brinkley also addressed the committees, discussing the reductions, and the Administration’s views on preparing for the FY 2017 budget.
The DLS report showed that revenues during the last year (FY 2015) exceeded the estimates by over $200 million, and combined with other transfers during the year, led to an end of year balance in general funds of app. $320 million, six times the projected figure ($52.7 million). The Board of Revenue Estimates has also increased the estimate for 2016 GF revenues by $84 million. These figures led several legislators to closely question Secretary Brinkley on the impact of the recently allocated cuts, that include elimination of positions primarily in higher education and in the Department of Human Resources, as well as other cuts to programs in state agencies, a number of which will impact nonprofit recipients or providers. With the exception of position cuts at Coppin and Morgan State Universities (which had representatives speak at the briefing) most positions eliminated are currently vacant. There were requests for assessments of the loss of the positions in DHR.
The size of the newly found surplus also led several legislators to renew requests to Secretary Brinkley for the Administration to reconsider its refusal to transfer available surplus to fund the balance of the Geographic Cost of Education Index for the current year, and a grant to Prince Georges County Hospital, as authorized in the enacted budget.
Going forward, state agencies have been directed to assume the reduced level of current year appropriations as their baseline for FY 2017 requests. In our view that implies an effort to generate additional surplus for possible tax reduction actions in the next year.
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