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Miller: Counties Have Been "Fat, Dumb and Happy"

Rosalind Helderman

Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said in a television interview yesterday that before Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) lays off employees to close a budget gap, he should look for savings by cutting state aid to local governments.

"I would hope before he goes to layoffs, he would go to the counties and say, you're 40 percent of the state budget," Miller told Bruce DePuyt on NewsChannel 8. "You're fat, dumb and happy in terms of the state revenue."

Asked by DePuyt if he believed counties had truly not been working to cut their budgets, Miller said, "Some of them are. I know for example that the county executive of Montgomery and the county executive of Prince George's county are. But there are other counties that have huge rainy day funds, their employees are getting large pay increases...They can do a little bit with less from the state of Maryland during these very tough fiscal times."

For instance, Miller said he would support shifting a portion of local teacher pension funding from the state to counties. He noted local governments set the salaries that determine pension costs, but the state foots the bill for retirement funding.

"We didn't set these salaries, we didn't negotiate them, yet the state is asked to pay them without a funding source whatsoever," he said.

"I know the Speaker's in favor of it. I'm in favor of it. But the governor is dancing all the around the issue. Right now, he doesn't even want to talk about it," Miller said the possibility of the change being adopted by the legislature during its 90-day session.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  January 15, 2009; 4:12 PM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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Despite a few mistakes in this article, it looks as if the fat dumb and happy slipper fits Miller to a T.

Why wasn't he warning the counties back when the first inkling of a housing bubble started taking shape ????

Posted by: properbostonian1 | January 15, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Mike Miller says that there is no "funding source" for the cost of teacher pensions. But the funding source is, and always has been, the plenary taxing power of the State of Maryland.

In its Fall 2007 Emergency Session and its regular session in 2008, the Maryland General Assembly passed revenue measures which people were willing to support on the supposition that the state would need those revenues in order to fulfill its program obligations, including the cost of teacher pensions. To have passed those tax changes and then to refuse to fund what has always been seen as a state obligation is a shell game of the worst sort.

Maryland's schools have just been rated Number 1 in the nation by Education Week. That accomplishment did not come from nothing, but from the willingness of the electorate and political leaders to pay for the resources which help us to leave fewer and fewer children behind. This is no time to turn the clock back on those efforts.

Turning the pension costs back to the counties would be, in effect, reducing the educational supports available to our children. In an enlightened society, the children should come first.

Not only that, the investment we make in today's children will yield far greater returns in the future as higher and higher percentages of our youth are able to command high wages in their careers. That will help all taxpayers, because there will be more higher-earning taxpayers to share the burden.

Mike Miller's idea about pension funding is shortsighted and will cost more money in the long run. That is why it should be rejected.

Posted by: jrsposter | January 16, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Maryland's teacher pension has already made news for being one of the worst in the nation. Recent changes have raised us to mediocre. Putting the funding of teacher pensions in the hands of local commissioners would be disastrous. In my county, the commissioners have already called teachers "pseudo-professionals". One of our commissioners cares more about animal rights (pigs) than children, yet our county makes its income primarily from taxing the parents who bring their children HERE to be educated.

Posted by: rlm1 | January 18, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

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