Carozza’s time in session spent on budget, educationFocused on state response to local opioid epidemic
(April 14, 2017) While most of the other members of the Maryland General Assembly were considering their own shares of the nearly 3,000 bills filed this session, Ocean City’s Delegate, Mary Beth Carozza, spent much of her time considering the state’s budget, as part of her responsibilities on the appropriations committee.
“I always start with the budget because it’s our one constitutional responsibility, which makes it every member’s responsibility, but I’m also on the committee so it consumes my time,” she said.
Maryland’s governor has some of the strongest budgetary powers in the country, in that the governor makes a proposal, and the legislature can only cut, not add, money from the plan.
“To fund other priorities, you’d see money fenced off, so it can go towards other projects,” Carozza explained. “There’s not so much of that this year, because mandated funding consumes 83 percent, so there’s only a small slice left over for discretionary spending.”
Carozza said the new budget provided $6.4 billion in funding for K-12 schools, and held tuition to a two percent increase, slightly below current inflation rates, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Carozza said she worked hard for parity in the community college funding formula, which appeared to favor schools in western Maryland.
“It’s not something I’d planned to work on, but there was an inequity there,” she said.
Carozza applauded Gov. Hogan’s choice of Clay Stamp, former head of emergency services in Ocean City, to serve as the point person on the state’s opioid emergency.
“I think the key is to make the local emergency managers into coordinators to know what resources are available across the board,” Carozza said. “When I talk to groups like the Worcester Warriors, the challenge is that sometimes the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.”
Carozza said when the pieces are put together in a coordinated way, the resources devoted to an issue have a way of piling up.
“I spent time on this because it’s what’s been going on at home. I believe it’s the right approach,” she said.
Carozza said she was glad for the defeat of two measures, one that would have made Maryland a so-called “sanctuary state” and the legislation dubbed the “road kill bill” by Gov. Hogan.
“The overwhelming negative response to the sanctuary state bill forced swayed [Senate President] Mike Miller to not move the bill. I know some politicians circulated petitions, but I think he also heard from his constituents,” she said.
Carozza thought the road kill bill, which instituted a ranking system for transportation projects, unfairly favored urban and transit projects while hurting rural and roads projects.
“We worked through it, but it really didn’t come together until the last few days,” she said.
The scoring system for the projects has been removed, “so priority projects stay on track and funded,” she said.