SCHOOL FUNDING HOW MUCH?
June 04, 2024

A few weeks ago, during a public speech, I addressed questions from the audience regarding education funding. This topic has become a hot-button issue as the Commissioners of St. Mary's recently increased the county's share of income taxes to the maximum legal limit to provide additional money for education. I also know our neighbors across the river in Calvert County are grappling with a similar decision.

This prompted me to consider the fundamental question: How can we determine when public education is adequately funded?

This fundamental question needs to be answered because we hear calls yearly for more money for public education. Yet, some would say that the school system already receives a huge portion of the budget locally and from the state, and the Board of Education needs to figure out how to live within its means. But which statement is accurate, and what are our other options?

Answering this question has sent me on a research quest. State funding is dependent on full-time enrollment, so I thought I would use a well-known calculation called the "per-pupil" funding amount and compare that amount to private school tuition rates in our area.

The journey to find information

First, I Googled the per-pupil funding amount for St. Mary's County and got numerous old links and a bunch of totals that did not look correct. You will quickly realize this number is not easily accessible. I finally asked the library for the Department of Legislative Services to research it. They sent me the chart below.

With a little more research, I learned that St. Mary's is ranked 11th in state dollars and 15th in county dollars; combined, we rank 21st compared to the rest of the state. The $17,056 per pupil expenditure may place St. Mary's

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RIGHT TO TRY 2.0 NOW A LAW
May 17, 2024

I am pleased to announce that yesterday, Governor Moore signed HB 676 - Right to Try - Individualized Treatments into law. This groundbreaking legislation removes the artificial government barriers to potentially life-saving treatments. It allows terminally ill patients and those suffering from rare diseases access to experimental treatments and medicines that have not yet been approved by the FDA.

Yesterday, the conservative think tank the Goldwater Institute published an insightful law analysis, which I want to share with you.

Please click the Read More link below:

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SEE HOW YOUR ELECTED OFFICIALS SCORED
May 10, 2024

One of the real frustrations for voters in Red areas is this ongoing issue of electing Republicans, hoping for conservative action, only to watch these officials turn around and act like Democrats once in office.

I've seen it with my own eyes. On the campaign trail, I've seen Republican candidates say the right words about fighting to cut taxes and promoting small government policies. Some even have those slogans printed on their signs. Still, once elected, they vote for tax and fee increases and massive government spending, resulting in debt service payments skyrocketing and a higher cost of living for all of us.

They often say the correct words, but living up to their words is a challenge.

I, however, take great pride in voting and following through with my promises.  

The American Conservative Union, commonly called CPAC, is a nationally recognized and reputable organization that plays a significant role in the conservative political landscape. Each spring, CPAC releases its scorecards, which are comprehensive evaluations of lawmakers' performance based on their votes on amended legislation in the Maryland General Assembly from the previous year.

CPAC's scorecard offers a vital benchmark for evaluating lawmakers' performance from a Conservative perspective. Their ratings of Maryland, which delve into critical issues like Second Amendment rights, government regulations, and DEI initiatives, are significant. This comprehensive scorecard empowers constituents, clearly assessing how their elected officials align with conservative principles.

This scorecard is a key resource for 'Red Areas' constituents who want to ensure their elected officials represent their conservative values. It also highlights just how unified and far Left the Democratic Party has become.

CPAC recognizes the following members of the Maryland State Legislature for earning CPAC's Award for Conservative Excellence for voting with the conservative position at least 90% of the time during the 2023 session.

Robin Grammer (100%)

Lauren Arikan (97%)

William Valentine (97%)

William Wivell (97%)

Mark Fisher (97%)

Matthew Morgan (94%)

Terry Baker (93%)

Nino Mangione (93%)

Jefferson Ghrist (93%)

Nicholaus Kipke (92%)

Kathy Szeliga (91%)

I'm delighted to be Gold Star rated again, with a 94% score for the second year in a row.

Please take the time to review the CPAC reports to understand how other legislators have fared. This will enable you to make informed decisions about your representatives and ensure their actions align with your values.

See how your Delegate and Senator voted.....

https://acu-ratings-pdfs.s3.amazonaws.com/ACU_Ratings_MD-2023.pdf

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LOCAL TAXES COMPARISON
April 26, 2024

The St. Mary's Commissioners held their budget hearing this week. The proposal is to raise the county piggyback income tax to the legal limit of 3.2%. One of my top goals is to keep you well informed, so I put together a tax comparison chart of the three Southern Maryland Counties.  These are the CURRENT taxes and rates for each Southern Maryland county.

Let's dig into the tax comparison. St. Mary's County's property tax rate is .85 cents on $ 100 of assessed value, which is often cited as low. However, it's important to note that this isn't a direct comparison with neighboring counties. Each county addresses Fire, Rescue, and support services slightly differently. Additionally, St. Mary's is the only Southern Maryland county that taxes energy and has a substantially higher real estate transfer tax, especially compared to Calvert County, where it doesn't exist.

While it may seem like a small difference, these additional taxes can add up for residents and businesses. It's essential to stay informed about the budget process and how it may affect you and your family's overall tax burden.

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END OF SESSION LETTER 2024
April 15, 2024

Dear Constituent,

Serving as your representative in the Maryland General Assembly is truly an honor and privilege. Last Monday marked the final day of the 2024 legislative session, known as Sine Die.

As is typical, the legislative session was a mix of triumphs and setbacks. Significant victories were achieved through my sponsored bill, HB676, the Right to Try for Individual Patients, alongside legislation I supported, such as HB137, Civil Immunity- Educator- Intervention, and the other 62 bills I co-sponsored that became law.  Additionally, we significantly amended and halted specific proposals in the final days of the session. Our bipartisan efforts to overhaul the fragmented Juvenile Justice system, as evidenced by HB814, mark essential steps toward meaningful reform and enhancement.

The losses were primarily centered around needless tax increases, housing, electric rates, and the majority party's forcing its agenda. Throughout this session, the House majority repeatedly imposed its will on the Senate and the minority party, promoting an agenda I believe many mainstream Maryland residents oppose.

This session, the General Assembly tackled an unprecedented 3,480 legislative initiatives.  Through it all, I assure you that my commitment to defending our shared values and beliefs remained steadfast. As your representative, I feel it is my duty to keep you well-informed and current. Below, I will discuss several bills that have the potential to significantly affect our quality of life, either for better or worse. For each one, I'll share my voting position and the potential consequences of its passage or failure.

Budget and Taxes

SB360 - Maryland Operating Budget  

Just a few years ago, Maryland boasted a $5 billion surplus. However, at the onset of the legislative session, the state adjusted its revenue projections downward three consecutive times, a reflection of economic fluctuations and shifts in tax revenue. This trend of downward adjustment persisted into early March, marking a fourth revision. Compounding these fiscal challenges, Maryland is grappling with budget shortfalls, significantly attributed to the costs associated with the multi-billion-dollar education reform initiative known as the Blueprint for Education or Kirwan Plan. By Fiscal Year 2028, the structural deficit is projected to surpass $3 billion, with state expenditures increasingly outstripping revenues by this substantial margin. For Fiscal Year 2025, the budget deficit was about $500 million. The Governor's budget addressed this by not contributing to the state's Rainy-Day Fund, moving money from other funds, and adjusting spending formulas. The Senate embraced this approach; unfortunately, the House of Delegates’ version of the budget included tax and fee hikes to balance the FY2025 budget. There were even more taxes in a separate bill, the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2024 (BRFA).

Excessive spending causes deficits, and numerous strategies exist for the Governor and the General Assembly to address them. I believe the optimal approach is to curb spending. Typically, Maryland's Legislature resolves deficits by raising taxes, fees, and occasionally tolls. This year was no different. I voted NO to the spending bill. The bill passed.

SB362 - Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2024

The negotiation of the budget and BFRA is a complicated story. The budget and BRFA originated in the Senate, were balanced with no tax increases, and were submitted to the House by mid-March. The House Appropriations Committee responded by adding the most significant tax hike in Maryland's history, amounting to $1.3 billion. In the final days of the legislative session, the Senate and House reached a compromise on the budget package that reduced many of the new or increased taxes from the House version but still included $450 million in new taxes and fees. Other conservative colleagues and I sent a letter urging the Governor to veto any bills with new or higher taxes or fees. I voted NO to the tax increases. The bill passed. 

My Bills

HB676 - Right to Try for Individualized Patients 

This bill broadens the Right to Try law to include gene-specific personalized treatments that might not undergo standard clinical trials because of their individualized nature. It aims to give Marylanders with rare diseases and terminal illnesses access to customized treatments, providing some hope and options for those suffering from these terrible diseases- the large majority being children. Maryland was a leader in 2017, one of the first states to pass the original Right to Try legislation. I am happy to report that Maryland still paves the way for patients to access potentially life-saving medicines and therapies for themselves and their families. HB676 passed with unanimous support in both the House and Senate. 

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$450M TAX INCREASE PASSED
April 06, 2024

Yesterday, following the announcement of a compromise on the budget bills, several of my conservative colleagues in the House of Delegates and I sent a letter to Governor Moore urging him to veto any bill containing increased taxes and fees.

While the mainstream media and many Republicans are happy the conflict is over, Democrats in the House of Delegates have taught the Senate, the Governor, and House Republicans a valuable lesson in confrontational politics.

Understanding confrontational politics as a negotiation tactic is important, as it involves the aggressor advancing their agenda by strategically retreating. Lenin employed this tactic, describing it as a pivotal strategy for the advancement of communism. He used the analogy of comparing the backswing of the hammer to being just as crucial as the forward thrust to drive a nail.

At the start of the legislative session, Governor Moore said he would not raise taxes. His budget, submitted in mid-January, included no new or increased taxes. Two months later, the Senate sent the House of Delegates a balanced budget without tax increases.

The Democrats in the House of Delegates, however, had other plans. Initially, they introduced a deep fake: HB1515, which was an estimated tax increase of $2.8B. HB1515 would have expanded the sales tax to include services. It basically taxed everything that moved; however, that was merely a distraction.

The Appropriations Committee then, instead of sending individual bills containing tax increases to the Senate, strategically amended the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (SB362 - BRFA) with $1.3 billion in new tax and fee increases. The BRFA balances the operating budget and must be passed to fulfill the constitutional obligation of a balanced budget. This action forced the Senate to address the issue of tax increases.

On Wednesday, a "compromise" between the House and the Senate was announced, resulting in a significant tax increase amounting to nearly $450 million in additional taxes collected from hard-working Marylanders. The tax increases are centered around an additional $1.25 per pack cigarette tax and numerous vehicle registration and transportation fees, totaling a whopping estimated $357m.

This negotiation tactic was crafty and left both sides feeling like they won. The Senate feels good about eliminating close to a billion dollars in tax increases, and the House Appropriation Committee feels good that it was able to impose its will and advance its agenda without really losing anything. But in reality, the House "ate the Senate's lunch" or rather "gored their ox." Whatever analogy you use, the situation was classic: ask for the moon and then fall back to a more so-called "reasonable" position, but in reality, they gave up nothing.

In the end, the taxpaying people of Maryland lost, now saddled with millions in increased taxes.

We are now urging Governor Moore to honor his goal and commitment of not raising taxes and fees by exercising his veto power.

*Please note: the total increase in taxes approaches $450. When the letter was drafted to the Governor, not all the details were yet released.

 

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WHAT IS HAPPENING
March 22, 2024

This session has been remarkably hectic, amidst the flurry of proposed tax hikes and other contentious matters in the General Assembly, leaving little room to touch upon some positive aspects.

I'm thrilled that a few weeks ago, the House approved my bill, HB676, which is currently under review by the Senate Finance Committee.

In my earlier email, I mentioned HB676-Right to Try for Individual Patients, which broadens the Right to Try law to include gene-specific personalized treatments that might not undergo standard clinical trials because of their personalized nature.  This bill aims to give Marylanders with rare diseases and terminal illnesses access to customized treatments, to provide some hope and options for those suffering from these terrible diseases.

I am proud to announce that every member of the Health and Government Operations Committee unanimously approved HB676 and co-sponsored the legislation.  The House of Delegates passed the bill with unanimous support on the House Floor, and I hope that the Senate will also advance the legislation.

Please read an article written by the Goldwater Institute on the bill advancing: https://www.goldwaterinstitute.org/maryland-lawmakers-unanimously-advance-right-to-try-expansion/

Largest Tax in Increase in Maryland History

On Wednesday, I offered a plan to eliminate the proposed tax increases found in SB362 - Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2024, commonly referred to as BRFA, by returning to the historic standard of a 35% ratio for Fairbox Recovery for mass transit.  Prior to 2018, mass transit riders were required to pay for 35% of the operating cost of mass transit.  Democrats removed that requirement, and today, mass transit riders pay in the single digits.  For example, taxpayers subsidized 94% of the cost of operating the Metro.  To put some dollar figures behind this, there is more money in this budget going to Washington Area Metro ($639 million) than state dollars, ($599 million) going to roads and bridges.  SB362 - is a war on drivers.  It raises the following taxes and fees:

  • Changing vehicle registration fees so that large vehicles pay more: $250 million
  • Enacting a corporate tax reform known as "combined reporting": $225 million
  • Applying the vehicle excise tax to trade-ins: $155 million
  • Increasing the vehicle excise tax from 6% to 6.5%: $100 million
  • Increasing tolls: $75 million
  • Adding a 75-cent fee on rides through ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft: $45 million
  • Increasing fines on speed camera violations from $40- $250: $30 million

It is morally wrong and blatantly unfair to raise the cost of commuting for those driving while others are getting a free ride.  Fox 45 Baltimore did a good news story on the status of the proposal.  As well as recording some of my comments from the Floor:

https://foxbaltimore.com/news/local/maryland-house-approves-budget-plan-with-tax-and-fee-increases

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Delegate Matt Morgan
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Annapolis, MD 21401
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3170

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Charlotte Hall, MD 20622

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