Kirwan’s Dreamworld

In a utopian world, there is plenty of money for everybody’s priorities. All public services can be funded, we can spend unlimited resources on education, and everything will be rainbows and ponies.

That’s not the real world, but it appears to be the world the Kirwan Commission lives in.

The funding workgroup of the Kirwan Commission released its funding recommendations today. They are clearly not based on any fiscal realities.

We’ve spoken ad nauseum about the state-level funding requirements. We’ve already noted that the working group stacked with tax-and-spend Democrats beholden to the Maryland State Education Association was already planting a budget bomb that would require a 10% increase in state spending and over $6,000 a year in new state taxes. But not being content with increasing state taxes, the working group has decided that county-level taxes aren’t high enough either based on the county-level funding requirements under the Kirwan recommendations.

The percentage column on the right indicates how much the commission expects to ask counties to increase on education funding. We’re talking about serious increases in funding for counties that really can’t afford it. A 28% increase in Caroline County. 38% in Prince George’s County. 40% in Talbot County. 99%(!) in Baltimore City.

My first question for the commission is:

Yes Baltimore City, a city that has a ton of other problems and is focusing right now on rebuilding a race track, is being asked to spend an additional $329 million a year on education. That’s nearly a 10% budget increase in the total city budget.

What’s telling is the fact that even members of the Kirwan Commission think that Baltimore City will be unable to afford the Kirwan requirements:

Joan Carter Conway, a former state senator from Baltimore who sits on the commission, expressed doubts that the money could be found.

“Given the dynamics of specifically what’s happening in the poorer jurisdictions, especially Baltimore City, it’s dreamland to sit here and believe that we will be able to pay,” she said.

Conway said later that she supports the recommendations, but is concerned about how the money will be found.

Yet that doesn’t seem to matter to appropriators in Annapolis. Another Baltimore City legislator, Delegate Maggie McIntosh, basically told counties (including Baltimore City) to find the money:

But McIntosh said Baltimore City and other local governments will have to make serious decisions about their budget priorities, referencing specifically the city police budget.

“There’s some who believe, and I’m one of them, that $300 million invested up front in children — keeping schools open after school, on Saturdays, in the summer, providing education and cultural activities for kids — might actually help the problem that police have not yet been able to address,” said McIntosh, a Democrat.

Baltimore City is going to be the focus of any discussions on the local funding requirement. Baltimore City is already up against the eight-ball due to shortsighted economic development plans. Remember that just last year the state needed to bailout Baltimore City to give them more state aid in education because city leaders are addicted to Tax Increment Financing and Payments in Lieu of Taxes deals that waives property taxes on certain properties in sweetheart deals given to politically connected developers and investors. So despite the city being already unable to meet their K-12 funding requirements and requiring a state bailout the city is being expected to find another $330 million.

On top of all of this, let us not forget that as part of the ill-advised Pimlico deal that Baltimore City is proposing the entire Pimlico property would no longer be taxable property because it would be donated to a non-profit organization controlled by Baltimore City.

In case you can’t already see where this is going, Baltimore City is going to have to pay its bills by cutting vital government services, raising property taxes on the middle and working-class Baltimoreans who are already fleeing the city in droves, or by sticking out their hand for another state bailout. Regardless of how that funding shakes out, regular taxpayers are the ones who are ultimately going to get screwed.

Baltimore City is of course merely one example of this. County spending in total will need to increase by $1.2 billion in affected counties, with most of those increases coming in Baltimore City, Prince George’s County, and Montgomery County, a rare occurrence where the brunt of the pain will be endured by the Democratic Party base instead of the rest of the state. But in the jurisdictions that will need to increase spending, there is going to be a tremendous amount of pain through higher property taxes. That is going to do what tax hikes always do: force families and businesses to make tough decisions. Businesses will hire fewer people. The price of goods and services will go up. And families may make the decision to move, either to another county or out of state.

And that’s before we even talk about the extra $6,000 per family in state taxes that will be required from the Kirwan recommendations.

The Kirwan Commission is operating in a dream world unencumbered by fiscal restraint or fiscal realities. The entire Commission and its funding working group have shown that they are not committed to serious solutions to fix Maryland’s schools and instead have charted a course that will ensure unbearable financial pain on Maryland’s middle and working-class families. These recommendations are neither realistic or sustainable.

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