April 20, 2017 by Christopher Meyer in Blog
Freddie Gray died two years ago yesterday while in police custody. As anger, unrest, and litigation made Baltimore a fixture in national headlines in the aftermath, one positive development seemed likely to come from this tragic event: a renewed commitment in Annapolis to invest in communities like the one where Freddie Gray lived and died. Two years later—and one year after the passage of a $290 million aid package intended to improve Baltimoreans’ access to housing, education, and jobs—more work is needed to secure this commitment. The budget proposal released by Gov. Hogan in January cut more than $30 million from the investments promised last year to Baltimore and precarious communities elsewhere in Maryland. Although the General Assembly subsequently restored much of this funding, it should never have been politicized in this way to begin with. Next year, the governor should commit in advance to fully fund the aid package,…
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April 18, 2017 by Natalie Neill in Blog, Budget and Tax
Last Saturday, I was finishing preparing a client’s tax return at the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site in west Baltimore that I run. As we were completing the signature pages, she asked me if preparers could file your taxes without your signature. I told her that was illegal but that it does happen. Usually the paid preparer incorrectly lists the return as “self-prepared.” Lo and behold, it had happened to her. In 2014, she made the mistake of trusting a friend who referred her to a tax preparer who only required pictures of her W-2 to file. She was surprised how large her refund was considering she only worked part of the year, and when she asked why, the preparer assured her it was correct, because she had children. She never saw, let alone signed, her tax forms. She did not find out the truth until the IRS contacted…
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April 14, 2017 by Christopher Meyer in Blog, Budget and Tax
What kind of state do you want Maryland to be? For most of us, the answer is straightforward. We want to live in safe neighborhoods with reliable roads and amenities like well-maintained parks. We want to send our kids to first-rate schools. We want to have healthy neighbors and access to great hospitals. These building blocks of a strong community are made possible by our tax dollars. As Tax Day rolls around, let’s take a look at the shared investments our taxes support and some options for making our tax system better.   Maryland Tax Basics On average, Marylanders pay 10.4 percent of our income in state and local taxes. Compared to other states, we’re near the middle of the pack with residents in 15 states plus the District of Columbia paying more than we do as a share of personal income. This puts Maryland close to the national average.…
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April 12, 2017 by Kali Schumitz in 2017 session, Blog, Budget and Tax, Economic Opportunity, Education, Health
Maryland’s 2017 General Assembly Session came to a close Monday night. While there were also plenty of good ideas left on the table, lawmakers took some important steps that will benefit Maryland families and our state’s economy. Here are some of the ways we are all better off thanks to the work of our legislators this year.   Taking time off when you or a child is sick. Right now, 750,000 hard-working Marylanders don’t have paid sick days. That means they have to give up income and, in many cases, put their jobs at risk when they are sick or need to stay home to care for a sick child. Legislation passed this year would guarantee most Marylanders at least five paid sick days per year, earned based on hours worked. Part-time workers and those who work for very small companies will be guaranteed unpaid sick days. Governor Hogan has…
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April 3, 2017 by Natalie Neill in Blog, Education
This year ProPublica released a different sort of NCAA tournament bracket, one based on how well schools serve low-income students. Princeton came out on top, based on federal data covering five categories: percentage of students receiving Pell grants, average annual cost to low-income students, median federal debt at graduation, the rate of Pell students not repaying their loans 3 years after graduation, and the discount off total cost. We gave the same treatment to 27 colleges and universities in Maryland with a few key differences: We include four-year public, private not-for-profit, and private for-profit schools regardless of their basketball teams’ prowess We do not consider the discount off total cost, instead we look at the first four categories and use the rate of non-repayment as a tie breaker[i] We seeded teams according to endowment size rather than NCAA ranking, reasoning those with more money would be better situated to help…
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March 29, 2017 by Christopher Meyer in 2017 session, Blog, Budget and Tax, Criminal Justice, Education, Health
As this year’s budget process nears its conclusion, Gov. Hogan has released two supplemental budgets to address needs not covered by his original January proposal. The first supplement included new funding for law enforcement equipment and technology projects, measures to address the opioid addiction crisis, and resolving other issues that have come up during legislative review of the governor’s budget proposal. The second included additional funding for schools in Baltimore City and 10 other districts where declining enrollment and long-term underinvestment have caused funding shortfalls. Together, the two supplements include $95 million in new spending. The first supplemental budget includes $31 million in new spending authority for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1. The largest piece is a $10 million payment into the newly created Opioid Crisis Fund, the first installment in a five-year plan the governor announced earlier this month that aims to address growing problems with overdoses…
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March 13, 2017 by MDCEP in 2017 session, Blog, Budget and Tax
Maryland’s legislative session is a little more than halfway through, which means the Appropriations Committee in the House of Delegates is making decisions about changes to the state’s budget. Last week, the Board of Revenue Estimates further lowered projected revenues by another $33 million due to the federal government’s hiring freeze, which adds to the challenge of meeting Marylanders’ needs. There are a handful of bills still under consideration that could generate more revenue for the state. However, because the legislature can’t add money to the governor’s budget, Marylanders wouldn’t necessarily see the benefits of better services and shorter waiting lists in the next fiscal year.   K-12 Education While fully funding core education expenses, Gov. Hogan’s proposed budget cut from several specialty programs aimed at improving student achievement as well as teacher training and retention programs. House lawmakers voted to restore as much funding to these programs as possible…
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March 10, 2017 by Christopher Meyer in Blog, Budget and Tax
As one disappointing revenue estimate after another came in last fall, it became increasingly clear that this would be a difficult year for Maryland’s state budget. Governor Hogan’s proposed budget confirmed that fear and then some: the governor’s plan responds to Maryland’s fiscal challenges with a counterproductive cuts-only approach, balancing the budget on the backs of people who need the state’s assistance the most. There is an alternative to cutting the investments that support our economy, like hiring qualified teachers and funding local transportation improvements. To maintain  essential services and ensure our state economy works for everyone, Maryland needs adequate revenue. Five bills currently before the General Assembly would move us in the right direction by cleaning up the tax code and ensuring powerful interests are not exempt from paying their fair share. Eliminate corporate “nowhere income”: Some corporations located in Maryland are able to earn income by making sales…
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March 8, 2017 by Kali Schumitz in 2017 session, Blog, Economic Opportunity
While women in Maryland are better off financially than their counterparts in other states, on average, they still only earn about 85 cents for every $1 men earn. The wage gap is even more pronounced for women of color, with black women earning 69 cents and Latina women earning 42 cents for every $1 a white man earns. Several bills under consideration in the General Assembly will help create greater economic security for people who are struggling to make ends meet and will disproportionately benefit working women and their families. Female-headed households are more likely to be among the lowest earners in Maryland, and a greater percentage of women are represented in low-wage service industry jobs that have few benefits. Passing these bill will mean more Marylanders are able to earn enough to afford the basics in life, and we will all benefit from healthier communities and a stronger economy.…
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February 24, 2017 by Natalie Neill in Blog, Budget and Tax, Economic Opportunity
Over the next couple of months, as Marylanders file their income taxes and many anxiously wait for state refunds, legislators will be considering whether to expand the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is widely hailed by Democrats and Republicans alike as a critical, effective, and fair program that rewards hard work and boosts the economy. Yet, Maryland’s credit leaves out thousands of low-wage workers. Young people and workers without children get little or no benefit from the existing credit, even if they have very low incomes. Many people who work for low wages go deeper into poverty because they don’t qualify for meaningful tax breaks.[i] Proposed legislation (Senate Bill 14 and House Bill 2) would be a step in the right direction. These bills would: Eliminate the requirement that an individual must be at least 25 years old to claim the credit Increase the income thresholds at…
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