Maryland county leaders oppose change in teacher pension funding
County executives and commissioners in Maryland have banded together to fight a proposal by Gov. Martin O’Malley to shift part of the cost of teacher pensions to local governments. The local officials say paying for the plan would mean savage cuts in essential services, according to the Baltimore Sun.
The officials said the governor’s plan would transfer millions of dollars in costs to libraries, public safety and education. That would force local governments to raise taxes or cut programs, the officials said.
Officials arguing their case at a news conference organized by the Maryland Association of Counties included chief executives from five counties: Ken Ulman of Howard County, John Leopold of Anne Arundel, David Craig of Harford, Rushem Baker III of Prince George’s and Isiah Leggett of Montgomery. They were joined by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and county council members and commissioners from across the state. “This puts a potentially devastating squeeze on local government,” Ulman said, according to the newspaper.
O’Malley’s plan would transfer to counties a part of the cost of teacher pensions that is now paid by the state, splitting those costs 50-50. He said the proposal in his budget would save the state $239 million next year.
O’Malley has tempered the vinegar with some sugar, offering to funnel additional funds to counties through an income tax hike on top earners and other tax measures. But local officials say it’s not nearly enough. The Maryland Association of Counties says the second-year cost to counties would be $330 million.
“In the out years, we’re really hit by this,” said Baker, a Democrat and the Prince George’s County executive, according to the Sun. “Collectively, we cannot absorb this.”
It was a bipartisan objection. “This is not an issue of Democrat versus Republican,” said Craig, a Republican and executive of Harford County, according to the newspaper. “All of us in county government know we can’t shift costs and cannot shift services.”