On April 21, JOTF partnered with Advocates for Children and Youth, Maryland Alliance for the Poor, Maryland Nonprofits, Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute, Maryland CASH, and the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition to host a wrap-up of the 2011 state legislative session.
Henry Bogdan, public policy director at Maryland Nonprofits, opened the event by welcoming everyone to Annapolis and introducing Senator Edward Kasemeyer, chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. Senator Kasemeyer spoke of the importance of advocates working at the grassroots level and also commented that the state needs to move to broaden the sales tax base to generate much-needed revenue.
Senator Kasemeyer was followed by a panel of nonprofit advocates. Melissa Broome, senior policy advocate at JOTF; Robin McKinney, director of the Maryland CASH Campaign; and Marceline White, executive director of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition described the legislative priorities tracked by their respective organizations during the session and took questions from the audience.
Senator Roger Manno, a freshman member of the Budget and Taxation Committee, then shared his reflections from the 2011 session. He spoke of the challenges associated with striving to continue to provide necessary services to the state while at the same time tightening the budget belt. He also mentioned the costs Maryland has incurred to implement the new federal healthcare mandates. Like Senator Kasemeyer, Senator Manno reminded attendees of the importance of speaking with their respective legislators in their districts after the legislative session has concluded in Annapolis.
Neil Bergsman, director of the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute, provided the group with an overview of how the budget process played out during the 2011 session and noted that while economic growth has resumed, it hasn’t been enough to fuel a broad, sustainable recovery. He also stated that the budget passed during the 2011 session leaves a billion-dollar long-term problem for upcoming years. Bergsman urged advocates to get involved now as departments begin making budget decisions for next year and as the fall 2011 special session will soon be upon us.
A second panel of nonprofit advocates followed Bergsman’s presentation. Melissa Rock, child welfare director at Advocates for Children and Youth; Branden McLeod, chair of the Maryland Alliance for the Poor; and Henry Bogdan, public policy director at Maryland Nonprofits described legislative priorities tracked by each of their organizations during the session and took questions from the audience.
The event concluded with a keynote by Nick Johnson, vice-president for state fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Johnson’s presentation, “The Budget and Fiscal Condition of the States,” emphasized how despite modest signs of improvement, states still face a long road to recovery and will continue to feel the impact of the recession. He noted that state tax collections have declined while the need for state-funded services has not. Consequently, even after making very deep spending cuts over the last several years, states continue to face large budget gaps. States are going to continue to struggle to find the revenue needed to support critical public services for a number of years, threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs.
For more information about this event, contact Melissa Broome at 410-234-8046.