Whining Ingrates Redux

We took note of this interesting tweet, above, from Montgomery County Councilman Tom Hucker yesterday, clamoring for the state to spend more on school construction.

Nevermind the fact that Governor Hogan has provided $631 million ($90 million for Montgomery County) school construction funding over the previous two fiscal years.

The bulk of state school construction funding comes from bond debt, and Governor Hogan, acting in the fiscally responsible manner he told us he would, has kept a tight lid on borrowing in order to help pay down the massive debt Martin O’Malley rang up on the taxpayer credit card. Under O’Malley, the state moved cash in capital accounts to cover general fund shortfalls (the consequence of increasing spending by $10 billion) and replaced that cash with bond debt.   Think of it like paying your car payment and utilities with a Visa.

Property tax revenue is used to pay the debt service, however that stream could not keep up with the increase in debt service due to O’Malley’s fiscal irresponsibility, which required subsidies from the general fund to cover the shortfall. The amount of general fund dollars needed to cover debt service has skyrocketed thanks to O’Malley.  In 2010 that number was zero, in FY 2018 it will reach $433 million, meaning for the first time debt service subsidies will eclipse what the state spends on school construction.

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The simple fact is, that if not for these ballooning debt service needs, there would be more money to devote to school construction.

You won’t be surprised to learn that Hucker has selective amnesia about this, as he was a member of the House of Delegates during the O’Malley era, and voted for all of O’Malley’s fiscally and morally irresponsible budgeting.

It is true that the cost of school construction has increased dramatically.   One of the main drivers of that cost was state’s expansion prevailing wage rule for school construction projects.  The IAC found that the expansion of the prevailing wage rate rules led to 12% increases in project costs. And guess what? Hucker voted for that as well.

Sorry Councilman Hucker, you can’t rack up the credit card bill, jack up the cost of school construction, then turn around and complain the state isn’t spending enough.

With Montgomery County schools bursting at the seams due to rising enrollment, Hucker should drop the whining ingrate routine. Instead he should heed Governor Hogan’s call for local school systems to come up with innovative lower cost school construction projects like the Monarch Academy in Anne Arundel County or the Barbara Ingram School in Washington County.

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