Legislative Update: Issues Facing the 2013 State Assembly
Del. John Olszewski Jr. talks about the state's budget and other issues sure to come up in the new legislative session.
The 2013 session of the Maryland General Assembly was called to order on Wednesday, Jan. 9.
During the 90 days ahead, the legislature is set to tackle a wide range of issues important to residents of the 6th district and all of Maryland. I am hopeful that this legislative update will help to serve as a broad overview of what residents can expect to be some of the big issues of the session, with more detailed discussions of some of these issues to be given as our time in Annapolis continues.
For the first time since I have been in office, it appears as if higher than expected corporate and income tax revenues are projected to help place the state budget in balance. Moreover, the stubborn structural deficit, once as large as $2 billion, has been shrunk to a small percentage of its original size, and is a projected $200 million. While I have been supportive of targeted cuts in spending and new gaming revenues, I have not been a proponent of tax increases. A balanced budget is all the more reason that legislators should be reluctant to seek out tax increases this session.
A balanced budget will not, however, prevent advocates of a gas tax increase to continue to seek a substantial per gallon increase or to add the six percent sales tax to the already-high prices. To be sure, the need for transportation funding is great, with analysts predicting that the entire capital spending budget of the Department of Transportation being used merely for highway maintenance and repair on or before 2018. Despite the need, I have serious concerns about the ways in which a gas tax increase will disproportionally harm the working families of our district and across the state.
The tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, has also brought the issues of gun control and mental health treatment to the forefront of the 2013 debate. The public has been clear about the need to address and help prevent such unthinkable carnage, and I will be evaluating solutions for the extent to which they actually help prevent such a horrific event from happening again, especially here in Maryland.
Other big issues that will be discussed by the legislature include the use of speed cameras, an issue brought into focus by the recent reports of camera reliability problems in Baltimore City. Offshore wind will also again be debated this year, as we attempt to deliver on the promise of green energy and job creation in a way that does not over-burden the residents of our state. Finally, the abolition of the death penalty is expected to be placed before the legislature for consideration.
These major issues will join the thousands of other proposals that are placed into the legislative process during the upcoming session. As our work continues, I will continue to communicate with all of you, and encourage you to take the time to reach out to me and my colleagues to express your opinions on the issues ahead.