PG County Executive & Council Chairman in a Pissing Match; Taxpayers Get Soaked.

Short version:

The PG County Executive, Rushern Baker, wants a double-digit property tax increase to fund schools, and is using a 2012 state law to get around the limits and requirements in the PG County Charter. The Council, led by Chairman Mel Franklin, vetoed the 15% increase, replaced it with a 4% increase, and added a penny increase to the Parks & Planning tax rate. Mr. Baker said that wasn’t good enough, vetoed the Council’s budget. The Council overrode his veto, which pissed Mr. Baker off. So he vetoed their budget again, and sent back one with an 11% increase in Property tax, and threatened legal action if the council didn’t pass his budget. The Council has once again overridden the County Executive’s budget, and passed their version.

Meanwhile, the taxpayers will see their property taxes increase, as well as their phone bills and the cost of various permits and licenses, despite very public outcry against the increases. Taxpayers are left feeling like no one is listening, and the only question now is how much will taxes increase.

 

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The TL;DR version:

Back in 1978, the citizens of Prince George’s County did something absolutely brilliant.  They passed a law that capped their property tax rate at the 1979 rate, affectionately known as TRIM (Tax Reform Initiative by Marylanders).  When TRIM was challenged in 1996, the voters in this very blue county not only upheld TRIM, but also passed into law the Approval of New or Additional Taxes by Referendum, which said the county government could NOT raise any taxes without asking the public to vote on it.

People who have been involved in PG County Politics much longer than I remember the Park & Planning Surplus scheme.  Fast forward to the height of the housing bubble in about 2005/2006. Maryland has this thing called the “Homestead Tax Credit” which was very helpful to families who saw their property assessments soaring.  The Homestead Tax Credit capped the amount your property tax bill could rise each year to 10% of the previous year’s assessment.  Thing was, the PG County half of the Maryland-National Capitol Park & Planning Commission had long before decided that the Homestead Tax Credit did NOT apply to it.  So P&P was taxing people on the full assessed property values, not the Homestead Tax Credit capped values.  This resulted in a HUGE surplus of cash sitting in the PG M-NCPPC account.  Once the folks in the county government realized how much extra there was, they started lining up with their hands out and a list of projects to do.  P&P also had ideas for the money, as they had their own list of maintenance issues and whatnot that needed attention.  Everything was rolling along so well.

Then the housing bubble burst. When the county went to the state delegation for funding, the state delegates took one look at the beefy account in P&P, and said use that money to plug the holes until the economy turns around.  That right there was a violation of the taxpayer’s trust, as money that had been taken for use in parks and such was now being used to fill the holes all across the county budget. But the economy didn’t recover as fast as hoped, and the county had to keep raiding the P&P fund to fund the budget.  That is until Martin O’Malley signed a bill restricting Park & Planning to the Homestead Tax Credit assessed value levels in 2010.  After that, the money quickly dried up, and P&P was left with a HUGE list of projects, and an ever-shrinking bank account to fund everything.

In 2012, one of the constant attempts by government officials to circumvent TRIM got approved in Annapolis, under Martin O’Malley.  The State Delegation from PG County supported SB 848 2012, also known as the Education Maintenance of Effort bill. SB848 allows county governments to violate the taxing restrictions in their charters for the express purpose of “maintaining the effort” for the county school system.  “Maintenance of Effort” is defined in the bill as the level of funding from last year, and the bill makes it next to impossible to cut education spending at all.  Any reduction in education spending must be granted a waiver from the state.  Operating any large system like this and not allowing the potential for cuts leads to a situation ripe for corruption, cronyism, and abuse.  Just recently the entire school board gave up their county credit cards because of wasteful, fraudulent spending on the part of several members.

County Executive Baker has his eyes on higher office.  It’s well known to anyone who follows PG County politics that Mr. Baker wants to take a shot at the Governor’s Mansion.  According to the Washington Post, “He told residents and business leaders that rehabilitating the education system would be the centerpiece of his legacy.”  He needs to drastically improve the school system, especially since he took it over just a few years ago, in order to have something he can use in his campaign for Governor.  So SB 848 2012 is the bill that Mr. Baker is using to claim he can raise property taxes in PG County by whatever amount he deems necessary for the school system.  Mr. Baker wants to is increase school funding dramatically, and he assumes that the citizens will go along with it because “it’s for the kids.”  He started asking for a 133 million dollar increase, then tried to settle for a 65 million dollar increase. The County Council will only approve a 34 million dollar increase.  There is a group of citizens, PG Tax Watch, who want to fight any increase, claiming that SB 848 2012 doesn’t apply here, and they may be right.  However, they will face an uphill battle as the State’s Attorney General’s office has already come down on the side of the County Executive. The one thing the letter from the AG’s office does not address though, is whether SB 848 2012 can be used to increase school funding. PG County has more than enough in the budget to fund the school at last year’s level without raising taxes, therefore, neither increase is needed to meet the Maintenance of Effort.

Meanwhile, the County Council, led by Chairman Mel Franklin, have declared that simply throwing money at the school system is not going to fix the myriad of problems there.  They want to increase funding for P&P instead. It seems that P&P told the Council & Executive that they are operating in a deficit this year, but have enough in the bank to cover next year.  After that though, they will be in big trouble, financially.  Councilman Franklin is rumored to have his eyes on the County Executive job when they both term limit out in 2018.  The last thing he wants to do right now is enforce a double digit increase in the property tax.  He realizes that’s political suicide. Instead, he wants to do a much smaller increase, a 4% increase that looks completely reasonable up against Mr. Baker’s proposal of 15%. He also wants to plug that hole in P&P because one of the projects that has gotten underway is a HUGE new aquatic & recreation center near Gwynn Park High School.  It’s one of the things he promised to bring to the area, and he wants to deliver.

Baker’s original proposed budget got shot down by Franklin & Co.  He got upset and vetoed their version of the budget, and resubmitted his own again.  They overrode his veto, and sent their budget back to him.  Baker then got really upset and vetoed the Council’s budget a second time, and vaguely threatened legal action if they don’t pass his budget.  The Franklin-led council promptly overrode Baker’s veto a second time, and essential told Baker to “bring it.”  Now the county’s budget is in limbo while we all await the County Executive’s next move.

VA State Legislators Tell City Council to Get in Line

“If you want to have the state involved … there’s a lot of projects that are in front of it,” Delegate Chris Jones R-76 said. “You have to get in line, and it has to be a priority.”

via Legislators discuss library | The Suffolk News-Herald.

Last year, I worked with the Suffolk Chapter of the Hampton Roads Tea Party, and we got the city to postpone the library project, a replacement of Morgan Memorial Library, a perfectly fine library near the heart of downtown.  They had planned to spend 1.5 million dollars buying up the land, for a library they were not projecting to build until sometime after 2019.  It seemed a ridiculous waste of money considering they were already planning to raise taxes, and did NOT have the full 9 million extra the school system was requesting.  So City Council was forced to defer the project.

This year, they’ve partnered with Paul De Camp Community College for 2 reasons.  First, to try to get grant money from the state to fund the project. Second, to make the Tea Party types shut up about it, because how could we possibly be against education?  /eyeroll

The new library will be on the corner of Lee & West Washington, where there are several houses & business right now, so that land would have to bought and taken off the tax rolls.  Also, it will cost $22 MILLION dollars!  That’s twice the cost of the new city hall!

Our illustrious mayor, Ms. Linda Johnson, has said in the past that she really wants this library project to go forward. She honestly believes that if we have a spiffy new library across from our spiffy new City Hall, that people will just love to hang out there.  Because, oh yes – when I think of where I want to go hang out and relax, I think City Hall.  /eyeroll   No, I am not joking. She actually said that.  You’d have to go through the archives of the City Council meeting discussing the project, but it’s there.

So the Council really wants this project, but they know they will face resistance again.  They joined up with PDCCC to try to circumvent the resistance by getting state money.  However, state legislators are telling them that the money won’t come from the state anytime soon.  LOL!

Dear citizens of Suffolk, be prepared, and start fighting this NOW!  Go to council meetings and speak up during the Non-Agenda Speakers time!  Start telling the council NOW that this project needs to stop, the city does not have the money, and the legislators have made it clear that the money won’t be coming from the state anytime soon.

Has Senator Dick Durbin ever even read the Constitution?

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) said in a congressional hearing Tuesday that a young person who is an illegal alien in the United States today may someday become president.

“When I look around this room, I see America’s future, our doctors, our teachers, our nurses, our engineers, our scientists, our soldiers, our congressmen, our senators, and maybe our president,” Durbin said immediately after having asked all young persons in the room to stand if they were currently undocumented aliens who would be eligible to become citizens if the DREAM Act were passed.
via CNSnews.com.

Dude.  I’m pretty sure no one in that group is going to be our future President.  Senators & Representatives, maybe – IF, and that’s a big IF, they get legal. But President… Um… No Dude.  The Constitution, in Article 2, Section 1, says that a person must be 35, and a natural born citizen (read ’em and weep Durbin) – and really, that is heart of the whole Birther thing — what defines natural born citizen.  Whatever that definition…  I’m pretty sure none of those DREAM ACTer’s will qualify.

Yet another reason why we chose to homeschool

This comes from an article written by a mom who’s 8 year old daughter’s class was being taught about HIV:

Indeed, when specifically asked why the school presents lessons on HIV in the third grade, rather than in middle school, one school administrator made this shocking admission:

“The goal is to reach kids before they absorb their parents’s values. By middle school it’s too late.”

via Sex ed wrong rite of spring – BostonHerald.com.

This stuff just writes itself.

So, apparently there is an elementary school in NJ named Barack Obama Elementary School.  At least, there was a school named after the President.  Seems the school is closing due to…  get this…

Financial mismanagement and lack of achievement.

HA HA HA!!!  Oh good grief.  How perfect is that?  That the school named for a man who is responsible for the biggest debt increase in American history and who is also famous for getting a Nobel Peace Prize for “hopenchange”….  A school named for that guy – is closing for lack of achievement and financial troubles.  ROTFLMAO!

The state fiscal monitor who oversees financial operations in the school district Thursday morning ordered the closing of the Barack H. Obama Elementary School as of July 1. (Source)

Hat Tip Michelle Malkin.

Homeschooling FTW

This video is meant to be a “Why WI Teachers can’t afford to pay $600 more of their own health care benefits”…. But when I read it (it’s a video of scrolling text) – all I could think of was  – “Damn.  I am so glad we chose to homeschool, so my kids will never have to be in a classroom like that!”

Oh, & by the way – the last line “the one & only support the teacher has in that room… The Union Rep!”  I call BS. That teacher’s union rep is not in the classroom helping to control the kids.  That teacher’s union rep is currently protesting a bill meant to save that teacher’s job.  If the WI bill doesn’t go through, the WI school system will be forced to fire many of their teachers because they can’t afford to pay them all.

The teacher described in this video has NO support.

D.C. playing racial politics? Meh, what else is new?

Washington DC.  I grew up a few miles outside of D.C.  So it really doesn’t surprise me at all to hear that Mayor Adrian Fenty – whose policies reduced the murder rate and helped to better the school system – is out.  Joe Hicks, of PJTV, has an absolutely brilliant piece on how Racial prejudice played a roll in DC politics.

Since PJTV doesn’t allow embedding, view the Video here.

Why Kagan should NOT be on SCOTUS

Capt Pete Hegseth testified before the Senate Judiciary on the matter of Ms. Kagan’s SCOTUS nomination. This is a Must-Watch if ever I saw it.

This woman should never have been nominated.  The Republicans in the Senate need to show some balls and at the very least filibuster this nomination.

(h/t Power Line)

Just say no… to the Girl Scouts?

This, is one among many reasons why my daughter will be going nowhere near the Girl Scouts.

“Sharon Slater, a mother of seven, innocently walked into a panel sponsored by the Girl Scouts USA at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women a few weeks ago. Almost immediately she was asked to leave. All non-Scout adults were kicked out of the room, which was packed with adolescent girls.

Her curiosity piqued, Slater lingered by the door and when the panel ended she went immediately back inside to look around. What she found has shocked her and shocked Girl Scout moms around the country. Slater found a stack of brochures produced by Planned Parenthood called “Healthy, Happy and Hot” that among other things explained to the girls, “Some people have sex when they have been drinking or using drugs. That is your choice.”

Read the whole thing at Washington Times. It will turn your stomach.

My personal opinion – It is not the Scouts’ job to teach sex ed.  It isn’t the public school’s job to teach sex ed. either.  It’s the parents’ job.

Too many parents are so scared of talking to their kids about sex, they more then willingly let someone else handle the discussion.  But what if that “someone else”, be it the school system, the scouts, or whoever, has a different set of values?

The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov 6:22) These children are God’s gift to me and my husband.  They are on loan from Him, and it’s up to us to raise them, not the state, and certainly not the Girl Scouts.

Parents need to step up and get involved.  Even if you don’t believe the Bible, do you really want the Girl Scouts advising your daughters on something as personal and intimate as sex?