September 20, 2017 by Christopher Meyer in Blog, Economic Opportunity
Many families in Maryland saw their standard of living improve in 2016, according to census data released last week. At the same time, the damage from the Great Recession is still not fully healed after almost a decade and too many in our state are still struggling to get by. Fortunately, there are policies we can adopt to ensure that everyone shares in Maryland’s economic growth. An Unfinished Recovery Typical Maryland families took home $78,900 in 2016, a 3.1 percent increase from 2015 (adjusted for inflation) and the highest median income in the country. For the first time, typical Maryland families had as much purchasing power in 2016 as before the Great Recession. However, looking at individuals’ salaries, as opposed to household income, most workers have not made up all the lost ground, earning $1,700 less in inflation-adjusted terms in 2016 than in 2007. Too many people in Maryland still…
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September 15, 2017 by Christopher Meyer in Blog, Education
A great public education system is one of the building blocks of Maryland’s prosperity. But as multiple independent analyses have shown, our school system doesn’t currently provide the same opportunities to all children. An education system that leaves many behind is out of step with Marylanders’ commitment to enable all children to achieve their full potential. It will also undermine our economy in the long run. The Kirwan Commission—the body charged with reviewing the state’s education policies—has a rare opportunity to strengthen Maryland’s school system. Decisions the commission will make in the coming months will affect Maryland children for many years to come. A new MDCEP report examines one of the most important policies the Kirwan Commission is reviewing: compensatory education aid, or targeted funding intended to help schools effectively serve low-income students. This funding is necessary because children in low-income families often face barriers to success in school. When…
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September 8, 2017 by Christopher Meyer in Blog, Budget and Tax
The governor and the Board of Public Works cut already approved funding for state services by $61 million on Wednesday. Midyear cuts like this are ordinarily used to plug holes in the budget in response to lower-than-expected revenues, but the Board of Revenue Estimates last week reported that the state’s fiscal health is currently somewhat better than expected. Unnecessary cuts in the middle of the budget year mean lower-quality public services for Maryland residents and underscore the need to reform the state’s budget process. The budget cuts took the biggest chunk out of the Department of Health, which lost $22 million in funding. Next up was higher education, with $11 million in combined cuts to public four-year institutions, the Maryland Higher Education Commission, and Baltimore City Community College. A wide range of other state agencies also lost funding, from the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to the Commission…
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August 28, 2017 by Ellen Hutton in Blog, Economic Opportunity
Marylanders overall tend to fare better financially than the average American, according to the latest Prosperity Now Scorecard. However, even as prosperity increases in Maryland, the racial wealth gap continues to widen. Households of color in Maryland are more than twice as likely as white households to lack the liquid assets to live above the poverty level for three months if they suddenly lose their income. An unexpected financial crisis, such as the loss of a job or a serious health problem, could leave these households unable to afford the necessities. White households have an average net worth that is almost eight times higher than that of households of color. Maryland has better health outcomes and a lower uninsured rate than much of the rest of the United States. Despite this, Marylanders of color are 3.2 times more likely than whites to not have health insurance coverage, well above the…
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August 24, 2017 by Christopher Meyer in Blog, Budget and Tax
The Trump administration and congressional leaders are gearing up to overhaul the federal tax code this fall. While many of the details remain fuzzy, one thing is clear: the administration’s top priority is to hand out big tax breaks to millionaires. These tax cuts would cost trillions in lost revenue and build pressure for damaging cuts to essential services—all while doing little to boost the economy or help working families. Congress should vote down any tax package resembling the one outlined by the administration. The Trump administration has never released a detailed proposal that fully explains the White House’s vision on taxes. Nonetheless, a brief statement of principles issued earlier this year calls for unbalanced cuts that would predominantly benefit millionaires. Some of the most egregious cuts include: Cutting the corporate tax rate by more than half and allowing a larger group of businesses and wealthy individuals to take advantage…
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August 9, 2017 by Ellen Hutton in Blog, Health
Federal funding for Medicaid remains under threat from proposals to drastically restructure it, even though most Americans oppose significant funding cuts to Medicaid. The program provides health care coverage to low income families, individuals with disabilities, veterans and seniors, who otherwise would not be able to afford it. Medicaid is also an important component to addressing the opioid epidemic. In Maryland, 1.3 million residents receive health care coverage through Medicaid, including nearly 290,000 who are able to receive coverage as a result of the expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Proposals to restructure Medicaid grants to states using block grants or per capita caps are designed to drastically reduce federal investment in Medicaid over time. As a result, Maryland would have to increase state funding to make up the difference, by raising taxes or cutting other programs, or make reductions to program eligibility or benefits. A Medicaid block grant would…
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August 7, 2017 by Ellen Hutton in Blog, Economic Opportunity
For low-income families throughout Maryland, finding an affordable place to live is an uphill battle. Rent has skyrocketed, three-quarters of people who qualify for housing assistance vouchers can’t get them due to lack of funding, and many affordable housing units are in severe disrepair. For those who are able to find a home, an eviction can easily undo all of their hard work. This is especially an issue for families struggling to get by in Baltimore. Each year, 150,000 cases are filed in the city’s Rent Court, and nearly 7,000 households are evicted as a result. In disputes between tenants and landlords, judges overwhelmingly favor landlords, even in cases where court-appointed inspectors have found the housing they provide to be a threat to tenants health and safety. Judges frequently blame tenants for substandard living conditions, when it is the legal responsibility of landlords to provide habitable housing. Landlords also have…
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July 28, 2017 by Christopher Meyer in Blog, Education
Maryland needs to strengthen its commitment to providing an excellent education to the state’s highest-need students. This was the message Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, delivered at Wednesday’s meeting of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education (often referred to as the Kirwan Commission in honor of the body’s chair). Maryland currently underinvests in the schools facing the greatest challenges, according to NCEE’s analysis. Well-chosen reforms would enable the state to boost achievement and thereby strengthen the state’s economy. Photo by Army Medicine (Creative Commons) Tucker presented several pieces of evidence that Maryland should do more to guarantee all students a first-rate education: Like many other states, the unequal wealth of Maryland’s counties translates into inequality in educational opportunities. In other countries with highly effective school systems, there is less of a link between a jurisdiction’s wealth and the amount of funding…
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July 19, 2017 by Ellen Hutton in Blog, Health
This week, two additional Republican senators came out against the Senate healthcare bill, leaving it with too few votes to move forward. Though the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) has been defeated in its current form, the fight to preserve the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and healthcare for millions of Americans is far from over. This defeat has revived efforts to repeal the ACA without a concurrent replacement.  Repeal of the ACA without a replacement would immediately repeal the Medicaid expansion, which provides about 290,000 Marylanders with health coverage, and eliminate health insurance subsidies that help middle-income families afford insurance. At the same time,  it would cut taxes for the wealthy. As a result, 32 million Americans would lose coverage by 2026, health insurance premiums would double, and the individual insurance market would collapse in most of the country. Nearly half a million Marylanders would lose their health insurance by…
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June 29, 2017 by Christopher Meyer in Blog, Economic Opportunity
Many of Maryland’s lowest-paid workers will get a pay raise Saturday thanks to a scheduled increase in the state’s minimum wage to $9.25 per hour (though tipped workers will still languish at $3.63 per hour). This is the second-to-last in a series of increases called for under a 2014 law, which will bring Maryland’s wage floor to $10.10 by this time next year. For thousands of hardworking Maryland families, this law means more money for things like groceries and school supplies, which translates into stronger sales at local businesses. At the same time, $10.10 is not sufficient for even a single adult working full time to afford a basic standard of living anywhere in the state, let alone those raising children. We should celebrate this week’s increase and continue to work toward a statewide standard of $15 per hour. Maryland’s Wage Law Is Working as Intended While Maryland has raised…
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